It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a party that has a thorough and decisive electoral mandate, must be in search of statesmanship to whitewash its campaign-time criminal utterings. Hence, the wise gestures to rise above caste and communal sentiments in Uttar, nay, Uttam Pradesh, now that 325 out of 403 Assembly seats are in BJP’s kitty.
Whether it was BJP national president Amit Shah likening his opponents to Kasab, the executed 26/11 terrorist who was caught alive, or other BJP stalwarts urging secular critics of the Modi government to “go to Pakistan”, polarisation as campaign strategy went far from being frowned upon to being openly embraced by the party. Mission 2017 had been the crucible on which the hopes of 2019 Lok Sabha polls would be weighed upon.
Hence, in the age of WhatsApp politics, polarisation through selective information, amplification of Hindu-Muslim issues, mis-information blitzkrieg on social media and some TV channels, continued unhinged, to reap brilliant electoral dividend. Not just in UP, but also in Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa.
However, the aftershocks of electoral strategies continue to send ripples through the fabric of once secular India. In Jianagla, a village about 70km from Bareilly, posters have come up overnight asking Muslims residing there to leave the place by the end of this year.
According to this Times of India report, the message in Hindi says, “[W]ith BJP in power in Uttar Pradesh, Hindus of the village would do what US president was doing to Muslims in that country.”
Further, the posters appeared barely days after BJP’s massive victory, and clearly linked the message to the ruling party in the state, that interestingly enough, is still without a chief ministerial face. “What Trump is doing in America, we will do in this village because the BJP is now in power,” the posters said
It must be remembered that fringe Hindu groups worshipped Donald Trump when the latter’s election campaign was still ongoing last year, and made headlines the world over for the bizarre spectacle that the events made. A cake was cut and Trump cardboard cut-outs were given divine sanctity exactly at a time when he was calling for racist and xenophobic immigration rules and practically linking all Muslims to ISIS and all Mexicans to rape crimes.
Following Trump’s election as the president of the United States, his draconian #MuslimBan came as a hardly unexpected executive order, in which citizens from seven chiefly-Muslim countries, five of which the US has bombed to Stone Age directly contributing to their economic and sociopolitical collapse, were banned from entering America for 90 days. Stalled by the courts, Trump’s revised plan targeted six countries, and even that has been stalled by a judge in Hawaii.
It is absolutely stunning that random groups that form on the basis of unabashed majoritarianism are drawing strength from the Donald Trump administration and linking the administrative racism of Trump with the administrative bigotry of the Modi regime in the Centre. The posters that have come up in Jianagla have the name of a BJP MP under the section “guardian”.
Exactly as Indians are killed in Trump’s America amidst rising hate crimes, as the ghost of the slain engineer Srinivas Kuchibholta calls out for justice, we are witnessing a two-pronged development in India, especially in BJP-ruled or BJP-eyed regions, related to religious minorities.
First, the calls from overseas Hindu groups trying their best to remain in the good books of the openly racist Donald Trump, to not see the murders of Indians as hate crimes that have direct correlation with the Trump-led White House and its reprehensible policies.
Second, the attempt to replicate the Trump (and Sangh) template by ushering in a climate of sustained hostility towards religious minorities, particularly the Muslims. This, despite the right-wing commentariat rising to defend Modi and Shah against their risible and proven Islamophobia, and flooding the mediasphere on how Muslims have, in fact, voted for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls.
The posters in Jianagla that were put up overnight, have led to a police complaint. The village has about 200 Muslims among a total of 2,500 residents. The posters came up after Holi, and branding them as “inflammatory” is exactly like calling purported hate crimes as stray incidents that have nothing to do with the official narrative of corrosion, bigotry and distrust of minorities.
The village of Jianagla may not remain an isolated case if strict action against the perpetrators isn’t taken and soon. Yet, with the name of a BJP MP, (who exactly? The TOI report didn’t give that away) as the guardian featuring in the posters, can we really expect any real action?
Also, if the actual goal of the posters is to instill fear among the Muslims, that objective has been achieved already, and taking the posters down would do precious little to allay fears of people who had seen one of their own dying because the meat in his fridge was rumoured to be beef.
With the anything-goes electoral strategy adopted by the BJP, and the increasing rationalisation of the criminal incitements along religious lines with planted and false stories to further inflame passions, the “aftershocks” are hardly unexpected. Obviously, there will be attempts to portray this as one more stray attempt by persons who have nothing to do with the BJP and its leaders.
Are we entering a period of self-imposed political myopia? Or, do we just don’t care anymore?