Minority politics is perennial fare in India, but it peaks at poll time for that’s when secular politicos call in favours from their, er, well, most favoured constituencies. While on paper, the Constitution and electoral guidelines expressly prohibit candidates from seeking votes in the name of religion, strangely those nurturing minority vote banks are deemed exempt. This explains why while alleged hate speeches against minorities agitate the authorities and media, open overtures overflowing with love for minorities barely register on their radar! And we are not even thinking of hate speeches by ‘them’!
Varun Gandhi has said many things, but the oft-quoted remark that has reportedly landed him in jail is this: ‘If anyone raises a finger towards Hindus or if someone thinks that Hindus are weak and leaderless, if someone thinks that these leaders lick our boots for votes, if anyone raises a finger towards Hindus, then I swear on the (Bhagavad) Gita that I will cut that hand’. By association with his other speeches, this was assumed as a vitriolic attack on Muslims. And the ‘cutting off the hand’ bit ensured that a speech which intended to express love for Hindus got turned into a hate harangue! It needs to be recorded here that most Hindus can do without this kind of love.
But imagine this scenario which is actually very real: Mullahs and Muslim politicians routinely issue dire warnings that their religion and brotherhood should not be dabbled with in anyway and that includes perfectly Constitutional ways too. No National Security Act or for that matter, even a simple Cr PC provision, was invoked against a UP minister who issued an open fatwa a couple of years back announcing a reward of Rs 51 crores for the killer of the one who published the Danish cartoons. Congress and Left politicians vie with one another in showing themselves as protectors, in a very physical sense, if you see what I mean, of minorities and Muslims in particular. For instance, the murderous violence unleashed by Marxists goons against Hindus in Kannur district of Kerala a year or so back was secular ‘holy’ war to defeat communalism! But Varun as a self-appointed protector of Hindus in a far lesser vein, is communal to boot! Are the scales even?
Let’s move to a less morbid secularism, the secularism of love but nevertheless as violative of the Constitution and poll codes as hate speeches are. Shashi Tharoor is the Cong candidate for Thiruvananthapuram; yes, the same ST who contested unsuccessfully for the UN Sec-genship. The opponent Left Front has promptly pounced on his ‘anti-Muslim’ credentials by quoting articles written by him in which he has extolled the virtues of Israel vis-a-vis its Muslim neighbours. An unsuspecting Tharoor had even recommended that India should emulate Israel and walk into Pak! That did it! In a jiffy the ‘communal’ Tharoor was floored and is now clinging on to all props to rise as a secular phoenix. Here’s latest Tharoor speak: ‘Nobody can question my pro-Muslim credentials’! And he has promptly set about setting the record straight to the point that the might-have-been Sec-Gen of UN had not even heard of Israel. And he is busy meeting local Imams, offering explanations and seeking pardon. The Imams have promised to revert, but clearly hold a veto on him. Now if this is not communal vote gathering, what is? But then why would non-communal, secular Leftists bother about Tharoor being pro or anti Muslim? Again, why should ‘secular’ Imams and their brotherhoods worry about Tharoor’s pro-Israel leanings? And why should such a seasoned diplomat as Shashi Tharoor lapse into such a sorry spectacle of uninhibited remorse? Does not the Cong feel ashamed by this? Now, where and with whom does real communalism lie?
Most party manifestos openly declare support and succour for religious minorities. None less than the PM of the land had last year announced that the minorities have the first right over the resources of the nation as if the rest are children of a lesser god. His party follows it up in these polls by waving the Sachar report at Muslims and openly seeking votes in its name. The moment a religious riot happens, the secular vultures scent votes and swoop down to scavenge. The likes of K from elections immemorial have made a career out of communally rabid hate speeches, not to speak of poems, scripts and essays. It does not need much rationalism to know all those great ‘Dravidian literature’; it’s all open record. In Kerala, the Left have no qualms about associating with Madani. The Mulayams, Lalus and Paswans gleefully talk of a Muslim PM and this too passes muster under the secular smokescreen. Every party, from the rank communal to the neo-liberal would only field a minority candidate from a minority stronghold in due deference to the omnipotent secularism. Have anyone heard ‘secular’ parties like Muslim League or the Christian Democratic Front talk about price rise or CTBT? They get vocal only vis-a vis issues that affect the religion they represent. But no EC has till date bothered to send as much as a notice to any of these secular zealots who vitiate the poll scene far more than those promising to cut off hands.
But can minority politics survive without help from the minorities themselves? A good part of the minorities unfortunately believe that their interests are best served and secured only if they vote as a religious block. Now, is this not communal? Or for that matter, was not their refusal to recite the Vande Mataram communal? In fact, would not singing it have proved their secular credentials just as the majority community is proving their’s day in and day out? But nobody bothered about that angle. And the high point has come officially from Home Minister PC who in an obvious reference to the BJP has declared that ‘communalism is more dangerous than terrorism’. I am at liberty to interpret it as ‘Varun is more dangerous than Kasab’! We now know why Afzal Guru is consistently skipping the noose!
Indeed, secularism has turned out to be the most communal word in the Indian political lexicon. For, minority politics under that banner has caused more communal polarisation than the Varuns of the land. As they say, they deserve each other and we resent both. Our only grouse is that the dice is dangerously loaded.
e-mail the writer at [email protected]