Communalism: Grave Threat to Secularism

There still prevail destructive elements in this country bent on spreading communal tension and targeting the minorities, particularly Muslims. These communal elements are, apparently, still guided by the illusion that their decision holds greater weight and importance than the country’s Constitution, legal system and institutions. What does their involvement recently in hanging to death of two Muslim cattle traders in Jharkhand indicate? The Muslim cow traders were killed and then their bodies were hung from a tree to make it look like a suicide case, according to official reports. It has also been stated that the crime was committed to steal their animals. The other version states that this crime was deliberately committed to arouse communal tension in the state ahead of the assembly elections. It is also possible that few people were hired to indulge in activities to target Muslims and arouse communal tension in Jharkhand. The state is quite infamous for frequent communal incidents. Some people still believe that they need to play the communal card for political gain.

Till such faulty notions prevail, communalism is likely to keep displaying its menacing nature and continue posing a danger to the success of secularism in this country. Each and every time Indian Muslims are targeted, through their criminal activities, the destructive forces have also suppressed the secular spirit of this nation.  And each time that they succeed in targeting Muslims and arousing communal tension, they also push back the development cycle of the targeted community and nation, politically, socially and economically. Little importance is given to the fact that this amounts to abusing the national and economic interests of the country in addition to violating its constitutional principles. The last point has been specifically made in the context of the recent controversy raised over refusal of certain Muslims to chant a certain slogan they view as contradictory to the principles of Islam. It may be noted, the Indian Constitution does not make it essential for each and every Indian citizen to chant this or any other slogan. Also, by not reciting any particular slogan, an Indian does not become any less patriotic than others who chant such slogans. Besides, how can any Indian’s patriotism be judged by his/her decision to chant or not to chant slogans, defined by some as “patriotic"?

Representative of a Sikh sect too has stated that his sect’s religious beliefs do not permit him to chant the said slogan. Practice of one’s religious beliefs is protected by the Indian Constitution. This also implies that no Indian can be compelled to take any action that is not in keeping with his/her religious principles. In other words, this implies that those who are making noise about chanting of a controversial slogan are in essence or in fact acting against the letter and spirit of the Indian Constitution. The latter trend may also be viewed as their failure to live up to their constitutional duty. Now, this naturally raises questions regarding those who are acting against the national interest and are thus not living up to their constitutional duties. This also may be viewed as their not giving the required respect to constitutional norms and principles. In the same context, it is time greater attention was paid to select groups who tend to impose their code of rules on minorities and also punish them on assuming that their code was not being complied with. This has been marked recently by brutal killing of two Muslim cattle traders in Jharkhand. Reports suggest the involvement of cow protection activists in this incident.

The Jharkhand case seems a replay of the brutal lynching that took place a few months ago in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh. A Muslim family was attacked following rumours that they had kept cow-meat in their fridge. Head of the family succumbed to his injuries while his son sustained serious injuries. Laboratory reports later confirmed that the family had kept mutton and not beef in their fridge. '

In both the cases, communal frenzy incited against Muslims was based on rumours and not on any proof. The communal activists had taken law in their own hands, set their own guidelines for the targeted Muslims and had also taken decision for their fate. In addition to these communal elements having indulged in criminal activities, they have shown little respect for the nation’s law and order system. Rather, they have abused it in the belief that government of the day will protect them. Strict note must be taken of the fact that no person is authorized to set guidelines for others. If some persons are suspected of indulging in illegal behaviour and/or taking any action that is not keeping with the Constitution, the law and order system should be approached for taking due action against them. India has a competent judicial system to decide on what punishment should be given to those violating the law and order of the country.

Till communal elements in the country remain guided by the assumption that strict legal action will not be taken against them, probability of their targeting Muslims shall continue. Effective action by the state agencies is needed against such threats to Indian secularism and nationalism.    

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 April 2016 on page no. 11

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