Blog Post

Country existential challenge

Rajiv Kumar 14th July 2017

The dastardly terrorist attack on Amarnath pilgrims is a rude reminder, if one was needed, of our adversaries opportunistically fuelling a vicious cycle of religio-political violence in the country. Fortunately, the maturity of India's pluralistic and multi-cultural society has, once again, been amply reflected in the aftermath of this premeditated attack. There is a noteworthy absence of any flare-up elsewhere in the country. And the yatra continues with pilgrims determined to rebuff those who want us to be cowed down or react with meaningless violence.

The absence of any overt reaction, violent or otherwise, to repeated instigations by terrorists should not be seen as testimony to all being well .Each suchjihadi attack, as also those by the lumpen elements posing asgaurakshaks, creates an additional knot of resentment, anger and vengeance in the psyche of ordinary folks in the affected communities. This simmering cauldron ofsocial tensions, now palpable, erupts occasionally and has the potential to explode with horrific results. More significantly, it createsthe broad base of `social consent' that is currently so evident across the country. It seems to have numbed our sensitivities. Consequently, there is no outcry either when an Ayub is shot in cold blood for being confused with a Hindu, or a Junaid is lynched to death for merely exerting his rights to a seat in commuter train.

Cowardice

It is not cowardice that stops the common person, of whichever community, from rising up against this lunatic violence. Their passivity— even implicit support—is most likely a consequence of the majority in each community identifying with the fringe and seeing them as representing their perceived just cause. This breeds the culture of implicit consent, which not only accepts but perhaps connives with jiandis or Hindutva troublemakers. The key issue, therefore, is not to compare various forms of vigilantism or extremism and passively count rising human costs. The task at hand is to drain out the oxygen from the ever-expanding trend of silent consent for extremist violence. Not addressing this challenge head on will have disastrous consequences.

The apathy or connivance of past governments in combating this menace is evident. It started in 1988-89 with the ethnic cleansing in Kashmir, followed by the destruction of the Babri mosque in 1992. Since then religio-political violence has taken a life of its own, duly instigated by external forces, especially the ISI, which clearly sees it as a potent weapon against us. Domestically, political leaders across the entire spectrum have been culpable in this unfolding human tragedy. Primarily due to the number of years it has been in power, the Congress must bear the brunt of not nipping this poisonous flower in the bud. The cynical use of opportunistic secularism or sweet-coated communalism for wresting and retaining political office has made a mockery of our assertions for safeguarding human welfare and indeed India's national interests.

This horrible, cynical trend has to be reversed and conclusively eliminated from our midst. India's future as a nation state and indeed as a civilised society with its unique blend of multiple ethnicities and vibrant cultures critically depends on successfully reversing this. We have to spread awareness of the dire existential threat to our independence after centuries of servitude. The danger is real and becoming increasingly imminent.

Terrorism

What can be done? First, we must realise that this battle against religio-political terrorism and vigilantism cannot be successfully fought by governments alone. We have to all become involved. The role of civil society is critical in draining this malevolent pool of rising albeit covert communalism. Yes, there are entrant population segments, which are perhaps not sufficiently exposed to alternate cultures or value systems. They cannot, however, be simply dismissed by the elite as marauding hordes baying for `others' blood. Similarly, the `new Indians' cannot get away by hurling the slur of `Macaulay putram' on every liberal asserting constitutionally guaranteed individual rights. The RSS and Deoband have to be brought into the mainstream of the public discourse, where the creeping breakdown must now be urgently reversed.

Second, and paradoxically, governments, especially in states, have an even more critical role in the immediate context and time. Theirs is the solemn duty to protect human lives and establish the rule of law and maintain order in their jurisdictions. At the very least they must enforce state's monopoly of violence and disarm and incarcerate those who take law in their own hands. Extremist ideology of all hues and its violent manifestations must be put down with the heaviest of hands. This is the necessary existential condition for our society.

Rhetoric

Third, our political leaders across the spectrum have to ratchet down their rhetoric and calm the waters. Those who persistently demand that PM Narendra Modi be more strident or persistent even after his repeated and tough public criticism of Hindutva vigilantism, sound completely dishonest and hypocritical because they don't condemn the Owasis and Bannerjees of the world and do not support the right of Kashmiri Pandits to return to their native lands.

Finally, we must recognise that our society is under attack from external mal-influences. Therefore, it becomes even more important that we maintain a vigil to deny them the breeding ground for sowing communal hatred. Indians of all races, religions and value systems have voluntarily opted to live and become prosperous together. India's success in maintaining a multi-faith society and a robust democracy, while achieving economic progress, is appreciated by our Mends and envied by our adversaries. This is a unique attainment.

We have to recognise our historical achievement and be prepared to pay the price for maintaining that exalted position in the full glare of the global community.

The writer is director, Pahle India Foundation, Delhi

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