By J Aslam Basha
Those who use the social media, especially Twitter, will notice that the quality of public discourse in India is horrid. It is replete with abuse, threats, and misogyny. Anyone with an opinion which digresses from the government’s view is instantly dubbed an anti-national, especially if they belong to the minority communities. Tragically, the PM himself follows many of these notorious trolls, some of whom proudly display a picture of theirs with the PM. The PM on his part maintains an ambiguous silence which many are compelled to interpret as tacit approval of trolling.
In such a scenario, it is only natural that minorities of all hues become anxious, especially when their voices are stifled by calls for adhering to a homogenous view propounded by the ruling BJP, which has long advocated the cause of Hindi, Hindu, Hindustani. Many of the trolls have a warped worldview in which India is a monolithic country with no scope for diversity. Perhaps it is this belief of theirs that prompts them to advocate their panacea for all problems of this country – to be sent to ‘Pakistan’!
They spend their day loathing any intellectual debate and accuse the liberal parties like the Congress of indulging in minority appeasement, often ruing about the cultural safeguards provided for by the Indian Constitution, which they claim are not available for the Hindus. They equate minority with religion and are oblivious to the constitutional provision for safeguarding minority culture. While article 30 of the constitution of India (a Fundamental Right), provides for the right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions, it also states clearly that a minority can be based on religion or language. Thus, even Hindus can be minorities depending on the state they belong to or by the language they speak.
It is not only the trolls who speak in this voice but even senior BJP leaders like Subramanian Swamy, who at the ‘National Conference on the Indian Cow’, organized under the aegis of his organization, Virat Hindustan Sangam, called for a tax to be imposed to protect the Cow, which has become a totem-pole for Hindutva. Such a proposal is not only outlandish, but also is against the Fundamental Rights of Indian Citizens as the article 27 reads that no person can be compelled to pay taxes for the promotion of any particular religion or religious institution. The BJP may argue that cow protection has nothing to do with religion and it is a genuine concern for farmers. The reality is known to everyone. Moreover, if the BJP was so serious about the agrarian crisis, the PM would have met the protesting farmers from Tamil Nadu and allayed their concerns.
This step-motherly treatment being meted out to Tamils springs from the weak administration in Tamil Nadu. With the AIADMK in tatters, due to the infighting amongst its various factions, the BJP seeks to gain a backdoor entry into Tamil Nadu. Thus far, the south, especially Tamil Nadu was luckily devoid of communalism. Our famed progress was built on social peace and communal harmony, which, should it be destroyed for myopic political gains, will result in our development coming to a tragic halt.
While our farmers starve, our brethren are lynched, and our culture is annihilated, a large army of trolls, alien to reason will defend the government at the centre and the state, creating an illusion of acceptance. If we as right-thinking citizens don’t stand up to the bullies, we will be failing in our fundamental duty as an Indian to promote fraternity and peace. This is the time for us to resist the hatred being spread in society, time for us to expose their lies, and to question the state and central governments for the plummeting law and order situation. We must take inspiration from the Holy Kural:
அறிவில்லாதவர் தம்மைத் தாமே துன்புறுத்தும் துன்பம் அவருடைய பகைவர்க்கும் செய்ய முடியாத அளவினதாகும்
(Foolish people inflict pain upon themselves which is worse than what an enemy can bring upon)
If we as the civil society don’t respond to the challenge facing us today, we will do ourselves more harm than what the divisive forces intend to.
Dr. J. Aslam Basha is Chairman, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, Minority Department.
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