Secularism against Communalism is not going to be an easy one

The recent spate of communal violence at Basirhat town in West Bengal can be analysed from several angles. Clearly, it suggests that certain extremist elements are keen to communalise the socio-political environment in this peaceful state. At the same time, the fact cannot be ignored that events in Basirhat have not provoked citizens in other parts of West Bengal and the country to indulge in similar communal behaviour. And this reality is testimony to the truth that secularism still prevails in the country. It is not as easy to defeat it as apparently assumed by certain right-winged elements. Besides, recent developments suggest that a movement has definitely begun in India against extremely communal activities of certain elements primarily linked with the saffron brigade. Or it may be more appropriate to say that the silent secular movement present in India down centuries has once again chosen to voice its stand against anti-secular activities targeting minorities, particularly Muslims. Yes, Indian secularism is still very much alive and active in India.

Secularism in the Indian context refers to a multi-religious nation, with each religious community having the right and freedom to practice its religion. Also, legally and socially, extremist, communal practises that may prove offensive to other communities are not permitted. Yet, recent past has been witness to Muslims being communally targeted in the name of “religion” by several right-winged persons. Junaid Khan has been one of the latest  victims. Late last month, he was stabbed to death on board a train from Delhi as he was heading home after shopping for Eid.

The hard reality that nobody came to save him while he was being repeatedly stabbed cannot be ignored. Yet, it cannot also be missed that the Indian public at large has not ignored this incident. This has been proved by massive demonstrations staged throughout the country in protest against lynching of Junaid Khan. Certainly, his murder, primarily because of his religious identity, raises questions about the secular spirit of the Indian nation. The recent demonstrations may have put a stop to them but maybe only for some time.Nevertheless that demonstrations were staged across the country last month (June 28) bears its own significance.

The “Not In My Name” protests have certainly shown that by and large Indian public is not pleased at brutal murder of Muslims. Clearly, this proves that attempts being made to polarise the Indian community along religious lines have failed to take off as probably planned by extremist, communal groups.

The demonstrations also prove the point that compared to an extremely minimal number of persons who have displayed their communalism, the number of secular Indians who have participated in these demonstrations against the lynchings is much larger. This sends a strong message to extremist groups and also to the world at large that the impact of communalism carries little weight against secularism still remaining very active among Indians at large.

The substantial media coverage earned by “Not In My Name” demonstrations has apparently played its own role. This is marked by several politicians and community leaders choosing to visit Junaid’s house to offer their condolences to his family and assure them of their support. In the coming days, attempt of communal politicians to don a secular mask during their electoral campaigns may have little impact if communal incidents continue.

The demonstrations have at least succeeded in sending a message that Indian public should not be assumed to be silent each time a communal lynching takes place. The Indians should not be expected to allow communal behaviour of this nature to continue without any serious attention being paid to take needed action against those responsible for lynching.

It may be noted, the participants in demonstrations had only one relation with Junaid Khan and others targeted similarly. That is their citizenship and humanity. None had ever met or known these victims ever. But the people surged forth, displaying their anger against occurrence of such incidents and failure of concerned officials to prevent the same. Yes, humanitarianism also stood out in demonstrations taking place outside India.

Perhaps, it is time that this message must be understood seriously by those having so far chosen to remain mute observers to communal crimes. If they are under the impression that playing the communal card will help them politically in winning Hindu votes, they need to think again. More than 90 percent of demonstrators in most parts of the country were Hindus. Also, if a majority of Hindus did not believe in secular democracy, communalism would probably have proved extremely dangerous for most Muslims in the country.

Yes, there lurks a fear that failure of concerned politicians and officers to take strong action against extremist, communal elements is likely to encourage the latter to continue with lynching activities as and when it pleases them.

Well, in this case the recent demonstrations have certainly indicated that Indians are not going to keep quiet against communalism of this nature. The manner in which secularism has raised its head only indicates that it should not be expected to be defeated by communal designs of a few aggressive elements!

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