'Make Love, Not War'
The threat of majoritarianism
A quick perusal of democracies across the world attests to the fact that it is suffering from ailments. The biggest threat to this idea is majoritarianism. And this becomes quite obvious seeing the state of democracies on the subcontinent too. In our context the question needs asking: what is it that defines minorities in India? Yours truly believes that the word ‘vulnerability’ defines minorities in the contemporary times very well. This vulnerability emanates from seeing minorities as ‘other’, and labelling them country’s enemy using innuendoes, insinuations, allusions and others. To this end, specific ‘features’ are being constructed, defined, explained, exaggerated, reinforced by rumours, and finally spread through propaganda. Thus, one recalls Jean Paul Sartre’s observation that Jews are people, and it is the anti-Semite who makes them Jew. By extending this argument one could say with conviction that it holds true for any minority which faces such discriminations and vulnerability.
Being Muslim in India is one of the contesting identities of a Muslim besides a host of others. In the present times one is seeing that there is a continuous process of creating and demonising ‘Muslim Other’ as enemy. The hatred and hostility is being structured against them in subtle and unsubtle ways through various mediums. Lately inter community love and marriages are on the agenda of fanatic groups. ‘Love jihad’, an oxymoron par excellence, is the latest tool of assault that is gaining currency on social networking sites, and in the mainstream as well as vernacular news media. This particular phrase in actuality is being deployed as a byword for casting aspersions on the Muslim community in general and spreading animosity towards the youth of the community in particular by right wing Hindu fanatics who only thrive on Muslim enmity. To add to this, the particular phrase also conveys a hostile perception of the ‘Muslim Other’ which is approaching and actively menacing Bhartiye sanskriti and sabhyata. This new form of ‘low intensity communalism’ is doing the round across the country couched in religious language.
Contrary to Hindu right wing’s claim, the composite culture—often termed as Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb (Indo-Gangetic culture)—has been one of the salient features of India. The syncretic tradition is an amalgamation of cultures of different communities who have been ‘living together separately’ since ages in this geographical area. It has spawned over time a distinctive cultural milieu where people of different communities celebrate each other’s festivals and other social transactions. The catholicity of our culture is such that it also allows and celebrates inter-community marriages. People have been so relaxed and tolerant that these stuffs hardly become an issue. The Bombay Hindi cinema epitomises this inter mingling of our cultures very well. In our plural society, Sunil Dutt could marry Nargis, a Muslim woman; and Shahrukh Khan, a Muslim could go down the aisle with Gauri. Portrayal of inter-community marriages as an attack on one religion by the other only reflects narrow- mindedness and blinkered vision of such ragtag groups who are unaware of India’s composite culture, and wants to cash in on religious sentiments for mobilising masses on the religious line for their vested interests. We are living in a democratic country where people have been given rights under constitution to follow their religion. However, the same constitution provides space for inter community marriages for people having no qualm in it. Moreover, the agency of either a boy or a girl could not be negated if they want to live with anybody else as individual liberty is the supreme right of our times and cannot be compromised at any cost.
One could easily see that this is a symptomatic of growing religious fanaticism on the country’s soil as well as an attempt in drawing cultural boundary having an exclusivist policy for some petty reasons. The harmony of the country is constantly being threatened by religious fanatics of all hues. They are in search of excuses of one type or the other to disturb the peace and serenity of the country. Communalism in any form is the most serious threat that India has been facing since Independence. Spreading canard in the name of ‘love jihad’ and a string of such accusations only help in preparing ground for an outbreak of communal violence. To state the obvious, communalism has got the potential of unleashing killings, burning of properties, chaos and mayhem in the society.
Though we do not owe explanation to anybody but it needs to be emphasised and reiterated that this country is as much ours as anybody’s. Minorities are not consumable goods available to soothe the ‘collective conscience’. There should be a beginning of the end of this witch hunting of minorities, along with hype, hoopla and hyperbole of ‘Muslims as enemy’ which appears to be a figment of imagination at the last sight. What is in the offing if this continues to be state of the State vis-a-vis Minorities, Dalits and Adivasis of the country? The ‘idea of India’—which is of course different from the reality of India today— is constantly deteriorating, and needs to be checked. Sardar Jafri was right:
Jo ye tabeer ho gi Hind ke dereena khawabon ki
To phir Hindustan hoga na uske deedawar honge.
(If these be the meaning of our ancient dreams
Then the land and its seers will be gone)