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India’s citizens caught in the crossfire of divisive politics

Hindutva’s failure to unite India’s diverse peoples is apparent

India’s citizens caught in the crossfire of divisive politics

It is really ironic to see that India has been caught in a new wave of divisiveness. This is happening at a time when too much unity is being displayed by the ruling establishment of the country. If regions like Kashmir and Punjab have shown renewed attempts at resurrection, long-subsided movements are resurfacing in other areas. Manipur is one such case. Here, insurgencies were under control till the BJP government took over the state, but they have now resurfaced in a big way and with a newly acquired dimension of communalism. One can easily guess its repercussions in the northeast. There is every likelihood of the conflict spreading to other states involving Mizo, Naga, and other tribes. Another separatism-prone state, Tripura, is also waiting for a big conflict over the issue of a separate Tipraland to emerge. Police teargassed and lathi-charged a student protest on the issue of Roman script for the tribal language. The newly merged Tipra Motha party is leading all these agitations.

Similar trends of divisiveness could be witnessed in other parts of the country as well. If we closely look at the scenario, we find growing trends. It is undeniable that similar trends have existed at every stage of our development as a nation. It is only natural that a diverse country such as ours has divisions based on religion, caste, language, and region. But it is also clear that the forces of unity have also been equally strong in uniting us. In fact, the latter has always been dominant. This is the reason India has survived both as a civilization and as a nation. Many people are opposed to the idea that India has been a nation for many centuries ago. They took geographical fragmentation as the basis of a nation and were disappointed to see that in most parts of its history, India has never been geographically united. However, this fragmentation could never break the identity of India. Even those who ruled independent kingdoms never shed their identity as Indians. This century’s old shared identity found its expression in the struggle for independence. We freed the country from British rule and built a nation by recognizing all kinds of diversity. The new wave of divisiveness is threatening this shared identity. Those who laid the foundation of independent India rejected sectarianism at a time when it was threatening to become the dominant theme in the subcontinent. Sectarianism had become so powerful that it divided the country into two parts. However, Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, and Dr Ambedkar did not accept it and decided to make a democratic and secular India.

The Manipur situation has worsened to the extent that social groups and communities are not ready to stay together. In a statement, civil society and rights activists blamed the BJP for the turmoil: “Manipur is burning today in very large part due to the divisive politics played by the BJP and its governments at the Centre and State. And on them lies the onus to stop this ongoing civil war before more lives are lost.”

They say that “the state has pretended to be an ally to both communities for its political gains but has only widened the chasm of historical tensions between them without any effort to facilitate a dialogue towards resolution of the current crisis to date.”

“In the present scenario, the worst of the violence against the Kukis has been perpetuated by armed Meitei majoritarian groups like Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun, accompanied by genocidal hate-speech and supremacist displays of impunity, “ says the statement.

If we take a deeper look at the developments in the northeast, these allegations seem to have some basis. The northeast has been at the top of the RSS agenda. The Hindutva outfit has been active in the area since the 1960s to create a Hindutva force against Muslims and Christians. They have been exploiting the divisions between locals and illegal migrants from Bangladesh in Assam. Similarly, there have been social divisions in other parts of the Northeast. They have been successful in introducing religious communalism in those areas where identities are largely based on tribalism and language. In Manipur, the hill tribes of Kuki and Zo have long been in conflict with the Meitei tribe of the valley. But it has never been a conflict between religions. Meitei has believers from Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. However, churches in Meiteis have been attacked.

Similar divisiveness is brewing in other parts of the country. If we take a look at the statements of the top BJP leaders, it becomes clear that they are desperate to send the country into an internal battle that targets the unity and integrity of the country. The speeches of the BJP leaders remind us of the revival of virulent Hindutva in the 1990s. The party was then spearheading the movement for Ram Mandir at the site of Babri Mosque. After three and a half decades, the party has gone into the same mode. They are talking of the Common Civil Code, Muslim Reservation, Love Jihad, and anti-conversion laws. Can this virulent Hindutva unite the country?

When we examine the new wave of divisiveness in the country, we can easily conclude that the root of current strife lies in the ideology of an authoritarian state. Those who believe in this ideology do not believe in ethics. They do not comply with the code of the Indian Constitution. Had they believed in it, they would not have sided with the dominant sections of Manipuri society and readily accepted to look into the grievances of the tribal communities.

The failure of Hindutva to take different peoples of the country is apparent in other parts of the country. The ideology is unable to unite a diverse country such as India.

(The author is a senior journalist. He has experience of working with leading newspapers and electronic media including Deccan Herald, Sunday Guardian, Navbharat Times and Dainik Bhaskar. He writes on politics, society, environment and economy)

Anil Sinha
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