Dr Samina Salim
This morning as I was fixing my suhoor I scrolled through my phone and saw a message from a friend. The title of the video ‘Bhagwan aur Khuda” piqued my curiosity and I immediately opened the message to see the video. It was a poem recitation from one of my favorite Bollywood actors Manoj Bajpayee whose beautiful rendition emphasised the futility of hatred.
This video further strengthened my belief that if there is anything that can save India from destruction, it is its silent citizens who need to be jolted out of their neutrality, to take the risk and speak for their nation, the future of which is dwindling in the hands of thugs. The urgent need of the hour is to reclaim and repair by preparing a counter narrative of communal harmony. This needs to happen now, bold and loud. A noise which drowns hate speech in the chorus of a harmonious counter narrative. Nothing else will work. The air is too toxic and slowly annihilating the Indian nation.
For a long time, I held the view that this hateful phase has a short shelf-life. India is too incredible to be consumed by the limited vision of the Hindutva campaign, but the dehumanisation, criminalisation and alienation of Muslims has gone on for too long resulting in complete normalisation to the extent that to a common Indian on the street Muslim lynching instead of invoking disgusting reactions, receive chuckles as it becomes a boring item on their newsfeed. Amidst this normalisation of Muslim hatred, what is worse is that those that subscribe to this hateful ideology accept celebratory favours from the state and bend all institutions in their favour. This is savagery, reminds one of a national geographic wildlife episode when an animal brings its kill to its pack to exert its dominance and the pack licks and rubs its fur as a token of their submission and reverence.
As if this was not awful enough, the hijab, the azaan, the halal, the jihad, surface as new instruments of Hindutva machinery to propel more anti-Muslim hysteria. Recent nationwide events demonstrate a new India, one in which religious and pious events are celebrated with dancing crowds brandishing weaponry, hurling insults, damaging mosques and shouting insinuating slogans against Muslim women.
This pattern of provocation, followed by bulldozing of reactions is presented in the mainstream as a moral justification for the mayhem, an adoption of the Israeli model. There is no regard for human life or dignity. Regrettably, the cyclical and methodical tactics are working well for the Hindutva agenda and might actually deliver results in the form of creation of a Hindu Rashtra by 2025, marking the centenary of the RSS. After all steadfast RSS volunteers both at home and abroad with their many hardworking proxies spent almost a century working the fault lines, exciting old prejudices, and creating new ones, and hence have been incredibly successful in their mission of creating an anti-Muslim hysteria.
Dissenters are few and are faced with intimidation and violence, some thrown away in jails, some ostracized under hypothetical charges and bullied into silence for speaking truth to power. There is no room for discourse, dialogue or conversation. Those that disagree, protest, speak, argue, ask or inquire are labeled as “Muslim appeasers” “secularists” “intellectual terrorists” etc. The only discourse is communal violence supported and propagated by those that are supposed to prevent it. Judiciary, media and state – all are backbone of this mayhem. This is no exaggeration or imaginary assumptions. Lack of condemnation of violence from anyone in power is a strong attestation of complete alignment of the state with vile forces. The costume friendly prime minister who is so fond of delivering man ki baat has not offered any for a while when in fact his words might have made a difference to his followers who are hell bent on creating a medieval nation in the 21st century.
The normalisation, in-fact glorification of violence enabled by the state, total contempt for rights, paralleled by a bizarre moral justification for revenge, leaves nothing unsaid or undone. The logic is so ridiculous that it freezes common sense when Muslim hatred in 2022 is rationalised for something that a Muslim ruler did in the 11th century. The long-held belief that somehow logic will prevail and general masses will begin to recognise the futility of Hindutva politics when families struggle to make ends meet is long gone. That won’t happen any time soon as the Indian society has been fed with daily doses of hate and violence to the extent that Muslim bashing is now used as an expression of self-esteem and collective pride.
The stage is set, plot is made, the roles are defined, the climax will be dramatic or tragic remains to be seen. The only force that can mitigate this frenzy is the Indian civil society which some argue has ceased to exist. I once again submit that we need more of such poems as recited by Manoj Bajpayee. This is the time for the writers, poets, singers, artists, actors to collaborate and create a counternarrative. Where are the producers of “miley sur mera tumhara” the beautiful national integration video we grew up watching. The disillusioned need a morale boost. Wake up Bollywood, if you can propagate hate through Kashmir files, you also can propagate love and also demand to make it tax free.
Samina Salim, Ph.D., is Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacological & Pharmaceutical Sciences, Houston College of Pharmacy. She was born in Lucknow and raised in Aligarh and moved to the United States in 1999.