Political Agenda of Communal Drive!

Undeniably, India is home to religious communities of various beliefs, including Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity and several others. It would, however, be erroneous to view each religious individual as extremist and communal. Nevertheless, there remains the frenzy among several political elements to tap on the religious nerve of the people for their own political benefits. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s decision to select Ayodhya and make announcement of his ensuring lighting of tens of thousands of lamps there suggests the same. This can be labelled as nothing else but an image promotion drive, that of his own self at the cost of the national exchequer. A quiet celebration of the same festival (Diwali) would probably not have received as much coverage as this has.

Ironically, during his campaign for the 2014 parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Modi had donned the secular mask. He was probably not confident of the electoral advantages that communal drive may yield. However, since his assuming power, reports of communal incidents such as cow-related lynchings have been on the rise. The attempts to saffronise Indian education syllabus, remove historical monuments such as Taj Mahal from UP’s official list of tourism sites, murder of journalists opposing communalism, questioning films on historical Muslim rulers and similar other moves suggest the same.

The Saffron brigade is certainly making attempts to spread its Hindutva brand throughout the country. This move primarily rests on the importance of religious leanings of practically the entire Indian community, particularly Hindus. The Saffron brigade apparently believes that communal drives, loaded with religious beliefs, is only going to increase their importance and thus that of their political wing, the BJP, among the Hindu voters at large. Those linked with the saffron brigade may not have reacted to the story of yet to be released Bollywood movie Padmavati, were it not linked with incidents from the life of a medieval Muslim ruler (Alauddin Khilji).  The film has been locked in controversies also because of threats from a Rajput community (Hindu high caste) raising questions about projection of a historical figure of their caste, that is Queen Padmavati. Paradoxically, objections have begun being raised even before these protestors had seen the film or even bothered to read its script.

The movie, reportedly, shows the romance between Alauddin Khilji and Padmavati. Irrespective of whether this is historically true or just manufactured drama- as most movies are - the communal aspect linked with protests voiced against this movie cannot be ignored. This point is primarily related to attempts being made to saffronise the Indian educational syllabus, particularly history. From one angle, there is nothing new regarding the efforts being made to feed distorted facts among the Indians to deliberately poison their minds regarding the minority community. India’s medieval history was marked primarily by the rule of Muslim rulers. They are viewed as anti-Hindu by the saffron brigade. If these Muslim kings were really anti-Hindu, several centuries of their rule would have probably made this country dominated by a Muslim population. The same point can be made vica versa. If the entire Hindu community was really communally anti-Muslim, this country would not have had the second largest population of Muslims in the world.

Nevertheless, the saffron brigade is hopeful of the success its communal propaganda. But protests raised against the same with majority being non-Muslims cannot be ignored. Lankesh was targeted primarily because she was among the ones who have chosen to raise their voices strongly against extremist, communal elements particularly those associated with the saffron brigade. The prospects of the saffron brigade abandoning its extremist drive soon are at present limited. Undeniably, communal incidents, whether it is cow-related lynchings or other cases, gain substantial media coverage. True, they also receive considerable criticism, which too is accorded importance in media. The extremists apparently view media coverage – negative as well as positive - a sign of their drive having achieved some success.

Politicians in power appear quite concerned about the advantages media coverage give to the communal activities of groups associated with them. As per their political calculations, tapping on the religious nerve of the people will arouse their emotional fervour. At present, this bears substantial significance for these politicians. They want this religious fervour to divert attention of people from economic, social and other issues troubling them. From this angle, Yogi’s key purpose behind his Diwali extravaganza was not simply drawing people’s attention to the importance he accords to the Ayodhya-issue. He indulged in this move deliberately apparently to try and cleanse his political image by diverting people’s attention from issues such as death of infants at a hospital in Gorakhpur. Similarly, other BJP leaders are probably hopeful that their religious drive, along extremist lines, will help people cease giving importance to the economic problems being faced by them. Against this backdrop, prior to viewing communal moves of extremist elements from religious lens waved by them, it is important to consider that these elements do not represent the entire country or even a significant percentage of its population. Besides, substantial importance needs to be given to their promoting communal frenzy for certain political goals!