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Prime Minister Narendra Modi minced no words on the need to turn away from communalism in his Independence Day speech. But there seems a disconnect between his sentiments and those of some in his party. If in the past communal rhetoric has been limited to the loony right-wing fringe, the Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath’s incendiary speech in Parliament, suggests that it has moved centre stage. As the MP spewed venom on the minorities and asked Hindus to organise themselves and fight back, his party, which should have known better, maintained a stoic silence. This, along with a number of communal incidents in the past few months, does not bode well for India. Though the term has been misinterpreted and misused liberally by our politicians, secularism is still the cornerstone of our society. It is the duty of every government to ensure that communal incidents, or events which have the potential to turn communal, are nipped in the bud. In order for the police on the ground to act decisively, the signals must come from the top as it has from Mr Modi.
If more political leaders are clear that they are opposed to violence in the name of religion and no one can seek shelter behind the influential in various parties, we will see a drastic reduction in communal tensions. But a shocking development in recent times is that when communal speeches are made, there has been no reaction from those who matter. In the absence of this, the matter becomes a political battle. Today, we see the Congress in breast-beating mode on the rise of communal violence. But, it was in power for 10 long years, during which it did little to institutionalise mechanisms for quick responses and penalties for those found guilty.
The BJP must rein in the likes of Adityanath especially when he speaks like this in a Parliament which is committed to upholding our secular Constitution. The BJP has to distance itself from these elements and if they happen to be within the party, then they must be censured publicly. Any nation confident of its identity ought not to demonise any minority. It is precisely India’s tolerant and inclusive polity that has held it together. This must not be eroded.
It is perhaps time for the BJP president or the home minister to make the party’s position on the subject clear. This will stop those who preach any exclusivist ideology in their tracks. The prime minister’s remarks on eschewing communalism must be taken as part of his forward-looking agenda. Let us not allow a few misguided elements to pull us back to a space where we certainly don’t want to go and should not go under any cost.