Centuries after scores of temples and mosques have been desecrated repeatedly and with a remarkable continuity, the desecration of a temple or a mosque has become sort of a national obsession. It is reported not because it is or was a beautiful piece of human creation and a symbol of art and history of an era gone by; the reason this news even makes to national television is because it is a reminder of the threat posed by the enemy within, in other words the “other community”. The recent temple discretion by a mentally unstable man named Muhammad Yasir in Jammu and Kashmir is a case in point.
The incident sparked protests and violence in Jammu and the charge of being a communal move by members of the other community. The media along with a few sycophants were quick to claim that temples in India are still under threat from an increasingly aggressive enemy, who lives in our neighbourhood, but who cannot be trusted. It is disturbing to see the manner in which this news seems to excite us despite the fact that we are no longer a colony, in fact we are inching closer to clench an NSG entry.
Despite progressing forward and becoming the fastest growing economy in the world, it is clear we have not moved an inch forward. We have been unable to shrug off bigotry, even though GDP and pay packets have become a neighbourhood obsession.
The reason why polarisation still seems to be the most attractive and effective vote catcher is because we refuse to move beyond our mandir-masjid politics. Although by conventional standards, it has become a boring topic. It is not difficult to document the reasons for Donald Trump’s rising popularity in the United States presidential campaign: His anti-Muslim rhetoric strikes a chord with a section of Americans. In fact he has developed a fan base in India, with the Hindu Sena even praying for his victory. Back home, the recent violence in Jammu has shown how easily people are ready to mobilise in the name of mandir-masjid, despite our past history having shown us that this has disastrous consequences in the long run. Not that the mandir-masjid politics belongs only to the Hindu-right wing in this country, other parties including the Congress have raked massive benefits from it in the past.
The presence of Muslims in constituencies with ability to tilt electoral balances ensures that almost all parties have employed this tool to their advantage, the only difference being that they have done this while demonising the right-wing and Muslims convincingly.
The recent news item of the mass exodus of Hindus from Kairana in Shamli district in western Uttar Pradesh is an example of this campaign to deliberately rake up a non-issue to national centre-stage.
The response to this news item on Twitter, which is ironically a symbol of free speech, is not in the least shocking.
There was a surge in tweets demanding an end to this exodus and the reason to protect the lives and property of the departing Hindus from Muslim treachery. The actual investigation into the claims of an exodus has shown how stupid we have been.
Not only have we demanded the return of people who never left rather many of them are long dead. This is not an example of efforts to polarize the UP electorate along communal lines, it just shows how ignorant they are, and how the state has not move beyond the discussion of beef, Babri Masjid, and the so-called threat to Hindu existence.
This sort of a combination in a state like Uttar Pradesh is toxic, especially with its past history of communal troubles.
That is one of the reasons for its backwardness and failure of communities to co-exist in the state. The question here is, do we need a repeat of Muzaffarnagar in UP in 2017? If the BJP hopes to script a victory in India’s most populous state, it should be ready to move beyond the likes of Sangeet Som, Sakshi Maharaj, Yogi Adityanath and MP Hukum Singh. Hukum Singh is not only a trouble monger, what is worrying is that he is unaware of the state of affairs in his constituency. Will the party stand with the people who embarrass them or those who actually have something new to offer to the electorate in UP? This is a difficult decision that the party will have to make.
There is no doubt that the UP elections in January 2017 will be watched carefully. The rising inflation and crude oil prices have already made people uncomfortable. But they are ready to wait. This is the time that the party can send a strong message of its campaign for development, which will demonstrate that they are ready to step forward. This move would also take the wind out of the sails of the Congress and Samajwadi campaigns in UP.
Rural electrification, improvement in railways and road building projects have been some of the highlights. It’s time we moved forward from this talk of Hindu exodus and Muslim exodus. It is unlikely that this will reap any major dividends in 2017 or in 2019. Neither would temple or masjid desecration.