Communalism Was Present In India Long Before BJP
Justice Markandey Katju dispels the notion that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi finds a united opposition in India’s youth. He argues that the rising fascism of the current Indian government is only opposed by Muslims and liberal Hindus, who are a minority. Moreover, he sheds light on the racist mindset of Hindus and the hypocritical attitude of Muslims of India.
Barkha Dutt is a well-known Indian journalist, and like almost all Indian journalists who have lived in big cities such as Delhi for long, she has a superficial understanding of social realities in India.
In a column published in Washington Post, titled ‘Modi’s Agenda Has Met Its Fiercest Opponents: India’s Youth’, she describes the gloomy situation prevailing in India. She then wrote, “There’s a sign of hope – the country led by India’s youth (two-thirds of the country is below 35 – is fighting back’. Students are fighting for the constitution and for the idea of a plural diverse society. India’s Muslims are fighting for their place in the republic.”
She also writes that many film stars, particularly women, have come out in support of the current agitations and have condemned what has happened. She ends with the inanity that ‘the intrinsically argumentative Indian is making himself/herself heard‘.
I wish to make the certain comments on her article. First, Barkha treats Indian youth as a monolithic group, but the fact is that they are not. Most are deeply divided on caste and communal lines.
I have pointed this out in my article ‘Anti-CAA Agitation Will Soon Fizzle Out’, that secularism is a feature of industrial societies, such as those that exist in North America, Europe, Japan, etc. It is not a feature of feudal or semi-feudal societies. India is still semi-feudal, as is evident from the rampant casteism and communalism still prevalent.
Though our Constitution states that India is a secular country, the ground reality is very different. In fact, India is a highly communal country, and of late, communalism has increased by leaps and bounds. Even today, most Hindus are communal, and so are most Muslims. This I know from my personal experience. When I am with my relatives and Hindu friends, and they are sure no Muslim is present, they often spout venom about Muslims.
When a Muslim is lynched, most Hindus are either indifferent, or some even happy. Eighty percent of Indians are Hindus, and most of them regard Muslims as fanatics, terrorists and anti-national. While the 15% Muslims in India are no doubt anti-CAA, as it excludes Muslim immigrants from citizenship rights, for that very reason most Hindus are pro-CAA. The ‘liberal’ Hindus who oppose CAA would not be more than 10-15% of all Hindus. Of course, they get publicity as they are in JNU and Delhi University etc, but the bulk of Hindus live in smaller towns or rural areas.
Communalism was present in society even before the BJP came to power in 2014. But back then, it was latent, and erupted only occasionally. After 2014, it has become open, virulent, and continuous. There is no doubt that religious polarisation has increased in India tremendously after the BJP came to power. So, to say that the entire Indian youth are against Modi’s agenda is fallacious. Only the Muslims and the ‘liberal’ Hindus are against it while most Hindus support Modi.
Even in the Bay Area of California, where I am presently staying, most non-resident Indians are polarised more than ever on religious lines.
Second, apart from religious division, much of Indian society is deeply divided on caste lines, and this sometimes erupts in violence. In May 2017, Rajput youth attacked Dalits in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh. In May 2019, Vanniyar youth in Tamil Nadu’s Ariyalur District attacked Dalits. Attacks on Dalits are frequent in Tamil Nadu’s educational institutions.
For a Dalit young man to fall in love with a non-Dalit girl, anywhere in India is often inviting a death sentence; both may be killed for ‘honour’. Many Indian agitations, like that of Jats, Gujars, or Dalits are openly casteist. So, it is wrong to presume that Indian youth are united.
Barkha overlooks that most of the youth agitating on issues like the Citizenship Amendment Act are from the middle class, and they have no staying power. They will soon get over their enthusiasm, and start thinking of jobs and a career, in the civil service or in some corporate or in academia. Some would be migrating abroad. Others, like Kanhaiya Kumar and Shehla Rashid, have joined politics.
I know of some youth who joined the anti-CAA agitation, but who now have to face the wrath of their parents, who are against this ‘netagiri’ and want their wards to concentrate on their careers.
Moreover, regarding the film stars, like the ones who came to JNU, one wonders whether it was due to genuine sympathy with the students or to promote their films or their careers.
It is true that almost all Muslims are opposed to the CAA. But why did they not show solidarity with their Hindu brethren when Kashmiri Pandits were being hounded out of the Valley? They shout hoarse when atrocities are committed on Palestinian Muslims. But why were their lips sealed when in Kashmir, all kinds of atrocities were being committed against Kashmiri Pandits? As stated in my article, ‘The Big Mistake Of India’s Anti-CAA Protesters’, secularism cannot be a one-way traffic, it must be a two-way traffic.
Also, why were the lips of Muslims sealed when atrocities were committed on Ahmadis in Pakistan. So, to say that Indian youth are fighting for the constitution and for a plural and diverse society is an over-simplistic explanation. And to say that Indian youth are opposing Modi’s agenda falsely presumes that Indian youth are united, or that most Hindu youth are anti-Modi.
Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also the Chairman of the Press Council of India.