Communal harmony as a counter to polarisation
The Indian economy has declined at an alarming rate. The unprecedented and massive negative growth to the tune of minus 23 per cent is a grim reminder that India has never faced such a grave crisis in the last four decades. The prospect of the government fixing the problem is very bleak on account of the flawed policies it adopts and follows.
India is now caught in a whirlpool of crisis after crisis with cascading effects. The accelerating spread of the COVID pandemic and rising levels of infections and deaths, as well as the utter failure of the Union Government in managing it has caused despair all around. The grim scenario on the national security front and the alarming levels of tension along the India-China border has further aggravated the problem.The coinage of the phrase “maximum pandemic and minimum governance” appropriately depicts the collapse of management of the state apparatus in the hands of those who have the mandate to rule.
The deep anguish, despair and scale of helplessness of the people is never taken into account by the ruling regime.
Because of the multiple failures on the governance front, the ruling regime diverts the attention of the people by placing all kinds of false narratives in front of them. The media is used to brazenly manufacture public opinion around these narratives and distort people's perception. Along with this tactic, the ruling regime employs all the means at its disposal to polarise people on the basis of religion, and takes the polarisation process to unprecedented levels by generating a false consciousness in their minds.
Already this COVID pandemic has become the most polarised pandemic in the history of humanity. In India, we saw the diabolical polarisation of the pandemic by perversely attributing the spread of the novel coronavirus to the Tablighi Jamat event in March 2020, and criminalizing those who attended it. The entire religious congregation was vilified, even as permission was granted to hold it by the Union Government.
This majoritarianism, accompanied by the vilification of minorities as the "other" who are responsible for the ills of society have been taken to unprecedented levels. Enough venomous infrastructure has been created for taking forward the cause of polarisation.
The ruling regime has hardly ever talked about communal harmony. Its manifold activities are aimed at disturbing communal amity and social solidarity in a planned manner. The Prime Minister hardly acknowledges even the names of festivals celebrated by minority communities while talking about festive seasons and cautioning people to follow COVID guidelines while celebrating these festivals. This omission of festivals that are important to a section of Indians in the PM’s statements sends a negative message that is completely out of tune with the composite culture of India. The deliberate action and pronouncements of ruling leaders that disregard communal harmony constitutes a disservice to our country, shared heritage and the Constitution.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a small booklet entitled “Constructive Programme” in 1941 containing eighteen points for achieving independence and progressive social change by the employment of non-violent methods. In this booklet, he placed communal unity ahead of other points such as economic equality, sanitation, and even the empowerment of women and farmers. He explained that without the prevalence of communal unity, there would be a state of turmoil and disturbance impeding the implementation of any measures for achieving other objectives for progressive changes in India.
The catalogue of failures involving economic decline, accelerated spread of the pandemic and endangered national security has exposed the vulnerabilities of the regime which is desperate to divert the attention of the people from such pressing and critical issues.
Therefore, the inflammatory binary vision based on polarisation has become more lethal and will continue to do so in the days to come. It is believed by the ruling regime at the centre that polarisation at the cost of real social and economic issues of the people would yield electoral dividends for them. However, the election results in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Delhi prove that expected political and electoral gains do not flow from the politics of polarisation.
Riots were engineered in Delhi and harsh and punitive punishments were inflicted on those who were protesting against the Union Government. The legal process is used to punish those who protest and express dissent.
The embedded media has already been promoting the narratives based on polarisation.
The Palghar lynching incident involving the killing of two monks of a Hindu sect was projected in very polarised terms. Every incident in the so called New India conjured up by the ruling regime can be seen and twisted as an event posing danger to the majority community because of the way in which one or other community is getting intoxicated by the religion of their followers.
The selections of some of the candidates from the coaching unit of Jamia to civil service has been mischievously telecast as "UPSC jihad" inflicted on India. Never in the history of India has the recruitment of youth to the civil service been seen in such rabid communal and pejorative terms.
Such desperate attempts to profile people based on their religion aim at dividing society. The top leaders of the regime are maintaining a studied silence on such issues. In doing so, they convey a message that they have no objection to such forces that are out to polarise and poison social harmony.
Therefore, at every level - be it individual, collective, market places or family - the issue of communal harmony has to be taken forward with passion and dedication. We need a confluential approach and not a compartmentalised approach to counter and defeat the forces thriving on polarisation.
That should be the approach to defend the idea of India which is fast disappearing under the onslaught of forces wedded to the dangerous ideals of polarisation. The issue of communal harmony must be accorded top priority to achieve the purpose embodied in the vision of Mahatma Gandhi who said "I do not want India to be wholly Hindu, wholly Islamic, wholly Christian but wholly tolerant with all its religions coexisting and flourishing."