We have had a generation grow up under the shadows of the carnage around the destruction of Babri Masjid claiming an upward of 2000 lives across (mostly Muslims) Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Surat, Kanpur, Delhi, Bhopal, Ranchi, and Jamshedpur. What followed was hastened ghettoization of Muslim communities across North and Western India perpetuating a sense of alienation and state-sponsored persecution.
Often during my school days, I was fed this notion of Muslims voluntarily choosing ghettoization in an otherwise free and secular country. ‘Mainstreaming’ hence became the hackneyed phrase for our times. It took me a while to realize the scale of this ruse, the audience that purportedly wants Muslims to assimilate is the same cheering riots and massacres in Nellie, Bhagalpur, Gujarat, and Muzzafarnagar.
How do you then explain this dichotomy?
Simply put, mainstreaming is a euphemism for subjugation and invisibilization.
Former IB chief MK Dhar claimed that Babri mosque demolition was planned 10 months in advance by top leaders of RSS, BJP, and VHP including Advani, Joshi, and Uma Bharti. Both Vajpayee and Advani made their political careers out of reviving ethnoreligious nationalism in the 80s. Advani’s rath-yatra only left bloody streets in its wake. As I write this, the Waqf board appears to have dropped its claim in the title-suit in return for the protection of other historical mosques. As it appears, any decision even in partial favor of the Waqf would stoke unmitigated violence. However, capitulating to the tremendous pressure from the state-machinery in an unfair trial sets a dangerous precedent and virtually guarantees that other historical monuments would be torn down at the whims of the Sangh. Above all, how come justice is served when those who actively participated in the violence continue to enjoy high public offices?
One of the great perils of associating with nationalism of any form, even the one with a veneer of patriotism; eventually it is hijacked and fashioned into its parochial ethnoreligious version at the convenience of the majority. Across democracies, often minority communities end up scarping for the goodwill of the majority lest they risk being marginalized, dehumanized, and demonized. After all, the institutional framework is designed to protect the interests of the majority whilst allowing only as much freedom for the others as the coop permits.
The new normal in the Indian political discourse merits discussion, we stand where national icons including Gandhi and Nehru have been summarily dismantled and ‘lynched’. ‘Luminaries’ like Savarkar, Hedgewar, Golwalkar and now Godse might as well populate the new pantheon of national icons. The first three were mainstreamed by the cumulative effort of thousands of ‘shakhas’ permeated by a sense of victimhood among India’s majority community. The fourth is still a work in progress.
Parallelly, Gandhi and Nehru were discredited for their effeminacy in reining in Muslims, conveniently ignoring that both Muslim zamindars and upper-caste Hindus were the beneficiaries of partition.
The ruling dispensation grudgingly sings paeans to Gandhi while its minions assiduously cast aspersions on a man dead for over seventy years. On the contrary, the vilification of Nehru is relentless often because he allegedly coerced India into becoming a secular nation-state.
The meteoric rise of a terrorist sannyasin and the popular support she commands is a telling sign of the new lows the Indian electorate condones and sometimes enthusiastically indulges in. Then again, the Indian electorate is ‘celebrated’ for rewarding strongmen, demagogues, and even mass murderers.
I refuse to believe that this seething hatred is the handiwork of a single political party or any leader. A leader is only as strong as the constituency behind it. Often art and cinema are said to be the reflection of the society they emanate from, if I may have the liberty, I would add politics here. Half a century hence, when academics would study this period, the grand duplicity and the studied silence of India’s middle class would be quoted as a textbook case of complicity not seen since the German society normalizing Nazism.
Across mainland India, community leaders are asking people to prepare for the eventual imposition of NRC. The HM has categorically stated that India is the original homeland for people of all communities except Muslims; a reality check for those in the community who have been sitting at the fences pretending they can avoid the fate of the Kashmiris and Bengali Muslims in Assam by brownnosing the majority.
The Rwanda radios of India have been blaring loud and clear. The demonization of Muslims through movies and media is nearly complete. The near frenzied celebration of Nusrat Jahan’s acceptance of ‘Hindu customs’ speaks volumes. Apparently, an ideal Muslim woman ought to indulge in Hindu practices though an Akhila Ashokan becoming Hadiya lets loose the collective insecurities of the majority community. As should be, the theories of sanctimony allow you to exterminate a community having proven that they are sub-humans and dare I say it, you can barely find anyone half as holier-than-thou as the Indians.
We have seen tomes published on the radicalization of Muslim youth. I suppose now is the right time we at least acknowledge the militant nationalism of the Hindu middle-class.