We must condemn communal rhetoric
I’m not being disingenuous, nor do I mean to be naïve, but how do you view Yogi Adityanath’s constant taunting of Muslims? It makes me squirm.
More importantly, it distresses me because I can hear echoes of Germany in the 1930s, South Africa in the 1960s, and Uganda in the 1970s. And that’s despite the fact I’m Hindu. In comparison, it must terrify our fellow Muslim citizens. Yet, it’s accepted in silence by Adityanath’s party, its president and, even, the prime minister (PM). And though reported by the media, it’s only rarely criticised, leave aside condemned.
Consider the most recent example. In a speech last Sunday, boasting of how much he has done, Adityanath still found a way of weaving in an attack on Muslims. “Were you getting this ration before 2017?” he asked. This was his answer: “Because back then those saying ‘abba jaan’ used to digest the ration… earlier those saying ‘abba jaan’ used to loot jobs meant for the poor.” And if that wasn’t enough, he promised to “definitely teach a lesson to the Romeos saying ‘abba jaan’.”
This wasn’t the first time, and I’m certain it won’t be the last occasion he’s picked on India’s Muslims. “How can our heroes be Mughals?” he asked last year, perhaps ignorant of the fact Akbar is considered one of the greatest emperors of all time. A year earlier, while campaigning, he accused his opponents of favouring “Ali” while he has faith only in “Bajrang Bali”.
The truth is, Adityanath has never hidden his prejudice. In fact, he revels in it. “If one Hindu girl is converted we will convert 100 Muslim girls”, is perhaps the most-quoted example of his prejudice. But there are others that are worse. On September 7, 2014, he claimed: “In places where there is 10-20% minority population, stray communal incidents take place. Where there are 20-35% of them, serious communal riots take place and where they are more than 35%, there is no place for non-Muslims.”
In 2005, 12 years before he came to power, he declared this ambition: “I will not stop till I turn Uttar Pradesh and India into a Hindu rashtra.” No doubt, it explains his behaviour. In fact, I presume it’s the intellectual underpinning of his prejudice. But what could possibly explain the way his hateful comments are received by his party and by the press?
Ours is a secular country and Muslims are equal citizens. So, what does the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president’s and PM’s silence amount to? It’s a question that’s crying out for an answer.
Do they accept Adityanath is undermining our democracy and vitiating the principles of our Constitution? Is his prejudice threatening the peace and harmony of our country? Isn’t this sort of prejudice repugnant in a politician who some believe could one day be our PM?
I don’t know their answers, but the silence suggests they’re very possibly “no”. Otherwise, surely, they would have spoken out, if not acted? In which case, there’s another question we need to ask: Is Adityanath reflecting their views, even though they may be reluctant to voice the same thoughts themselves? This, too, needs to be answered.
Let me now come to the press. Some of us see ourselves as the moral guardians of society. Others as a guard dog that barks and cannot be silenced. Yet, of the six papers I read every day, only two reported Adityanath’s “abba jaan” taunts. They were also the only ones to criticise him, but merely mildly.
We bristle with anger when Indians are mistreated abroad but seethe when the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) speaks about our treatment of Muslims in Kashmir. But remember what Sardar Patel said: “It is for us who happen to be in a majority to think about what the minorities feel, and how we in their position would feel if we are treated in the manner they are treated.”
That’s why the silence with which we respond to Adityanath is a terrible mistake.
Karan Thapar is the author of Devil’s Advocate: The Untold Story
The views expressed are personal