By Gazi Hassan
Since day one of the BJP coming to power, apprehensions have come to the fore. While some people were optimistic about India’s future and its possibilities under a new government, that hope seems to have taken a back seat with the developmental agenda somehow losing its charm. The country is becoming intolerant of free speech and routine demonstrations. There has been increase in communal tensions across the country. Issues like Ghar Wapsi, Gaw Mata politics, beef ban, vandalism of minority religious institutions, attacks on Dalits and so on are the talking points. It was as if the parent organisation of the BJP, the RSS and its wings viz. Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, were given a free hand to take the law into their own hands.
None of the attacks mentioned above were condemned by the BJP’s top leadership wholeheartedly. People are tolerating the intolerant behavior of the RSS and its youth wings. Let alone BJP, the opposition has also failed to put pressure on the BJP. Not to forget the lynching of a youth in Udhampur district of Jammu and Kashmir over allegedly transporting beef or the Dadri lynching where a man was brutally killed by a mob on the suspicion of keeping beef in a refrigerator. Most recently, there was the hanging of two people in MP for allegedly trafficking cattle. It is as if the RSS and its wings are a law unto themselves.
The recent case of JNU, where it was alleged by the youth wing of BJP, the ABVP, that students belonging to the Left and some unidentified students chanted anti-India slogans and pro-Afzal Guru slogans was another fracas. It is ironic that BJP which considers pro-Afzal slogans as anti-national is forming a government in coalition with a regional party (PDP in J&K) that considers Afzal Guru as a martyr. JNU is considered as an elite institution in terms of the academicians it has produced. It has also produced a large number of India’s bureaucrats and civil servants. But JNU has now become a victim of the blame-game and a prestigious institution has been dragged into political gameplans. Politicising the death of Rohit Vemula of UoH and imposition of unconstitutional provisions in governing the academic institutions are becoming the norm. Being a research scholar of International Studies, I am a bit scared of studying Pakistan and praising its military, constitutional set up, its robust feminist and civil society as compared to India, openly. The fear is of being labelled anti-national or traitor. Students should be given space where they can praise or critique any country, be it arch rivals or natural allies.
The ‘national and anti-national debate’ has just started, it will haunt us till the time the BJP led NDA government is in power. Minorities, when they demand special status are considered anti-national, and if you happened to be a Muslim then you have to prove your loyalty, patriotism and nationalism for the country. I think Jinnah was to some extent right when he said that minorities in South Asia, and in particular in India, will be oppressed by the majority community. The way in which the current regime is dealing with the issues, I must say we are heading towards dark ages.
Also, a case in point is the recent passage of the Aadhar Bill in the parliament in the Budget Session. A controversy started because the Bill was introduced as a Money Bill in the lower house of the parliament, the Lok Sabha. If a Bill is introduced as a Money Bill Rajya Sabha cannot amend it nor can recommend any amendments to the proposed Bill. Constitution and the fundamental law of the land should not be abrogated to achieve unethical ends.
If the NDA regime foresees itself ruling 10-15 years down the line, the leadership should take note and deal with the grave issues comprehensively and differently. The government should be tolerant of the views of its citizens, be it criticising its policies or initiatives. It should not infringe the fundamental rights of its citizens.
—The writer is a research scholar in International Studies at JMI