Dadri Case: Another test of Indian Secularism

[What an irony, family of Mohammad Akhlaq Khan, living in a village near Dadri (Uttar Pradesh) is targeted, allegedly on ground of their consuming beef. Akhlaq is beaten to death and his son, Danish, remains critically injured. If certain Indians have problems with consumption of beef in this country, certainly, this is not the way to counter the issue. What is disturbing is the communal colour deliberately added to allegation fuelled by rumours about Akhlaq having beef. Equally grievous is the trend displayed regarding the degree to which mob frenzy can be incited, prompting people to take law into their hands. This naturally raises questions about limited importance certain people tend to give, as per dictates of Indian Constitution, to democratic and secular rights of minorities living in this country. Do they need to secure permission of others, regarding what they should consume and keep in their refrigerator? And what legal as well as social authority are outsiders vested with to barge into the residence of just anybody that they wish to, with the purpose of abusing their rights?

Yes, the Dadri case once again throws question marks over the kind of secularism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi committed himself to, when he campaigned for Lok Sabha elections. The impression that is being created is that his victory appears to have given extremist, right-winged elements linked with the saffron brigade an opportunity to pick up certain issues, if need be deliberately manufacture them, to incite communal frenzy among majority community and provoke them to target minorities. Their aim is to deliberately provoke communal tension and make minorities living there feel insecure. Ironically, despite the Dadri case having evoked a strong criticism from Indians, including Hindus, several communally-oriented leaders have not ceased to display their bias regarding the beef-issue and minorities.

Against this backdrop, there is some relief in the fact that secularism across the country has not yet fallen victim to communal designs of the right-wing fanatics linked with saffron brigade. This was displayed through the manner numerous Indians, particularly non-Muslims, dared these elements’ bias by stating that even they consumed beef. And this, perhaps, is just a minor, that too symbolic, importance accorded to beef across the country. It may be pointed out that at present India is viewed as world’s largest exporter of meat, especially buffalo meat. During the year 2015, India exported 2.4 million tonnes of meat, while Brazil exported 2 million tonnes and Australia 1.5 million tonnes. India’s share of global beef (buffalo meat) exports is around 23.5 percent. Since 2011, India’s buffalo meat exports have increased at an average of around 14 per cent each year. During 2014, India’s earnings from buffalo meat exports exceeded that from Basmati rice.

Howsoever intense may be feelings of certain saffron brigade elements regarding consumption of beef, India, apparently cannot afford to ban this industry. Earnings from this sector are valued at roughly Rs 29,000 crore much of which goes to the farmers. Almost half of this earning, each year, is from Uttar Pradesh (UP). At present, UP is the largest buffalo-meat producing state in the country. Perhaps, the saffron brigade activists also need to wake up to the fact that among the major meat exporters, the four listed at the top are not owned by Muslims. They are Hindus and Jains.

A rudimentary glance at the meat export industry clearly indicates that majority of Indian Muslims are not linked with it. Even if a percentage of them are linked, the other realities of the meat industry mentioned earlier cannot be ignored. Against this backdrop, the Dadri case further proves the degree to which false propaganda and baseless rumours can be deliberately manufactured with the sole purpose of communally poisoning the mind of the majority community against the minorities, especially Muslims. It may be noted, the issue was deliberately created. The issue did not concern the whole community, but was focussed on the residence of a particular Muslim resident. This also suggests that apparently saffron brigade activists have become aware that they are least likely to succeed in their communal designs by trying to play on their old designs, be it regarding Hindutva, Ayodhya and so forth.

Equally important is the fact that reach of such communal activities of the saffron brigade has remained confined primarily to a small area. Its negative impact, that is communal frenzy, has not spread to other areas. Rather, it cannot be sidelined, the angry reaction against these communal activities has only strongly prompted secular Indians to voice their stand against the same. To a degree, this secular reaction has also prevented communal frenzy from escalating further in the very area where it was aroused. This also proves that howsoever hard they may try, communal frenzy being deliberately aroused by certain elements has limited appeal. This is proven by the strong reaction against communal activism in Dadri. It is time that Modi woke up to the hard fact that his remaining silent on such issues is not going to help him improve his secular image. He needs to start giving greater importance to the secular voice of common Indians, before it is too late!    

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 October 2015 on page no. 11

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