Countering Hate and Violence: What Should Minorities Do?

The violence against religious minorities has been on the rise during the last few years. Many a report tells us not only about the overall rise in the violence but also about the portents of violence orchestrated in the name of Mother Cow and nationalism in recent times. It has increased the insecurity among the religious minorities to no end; leading to ghettotization, which has started affecting the social fabric in very adverse way. It is in this background that the efforts of Jamiat-e-Ulama-e Hind to start youth clubs for self-defense have to be seen and assessed whether this is the right step?

Jamiat’s ‘Youth Club wing’

Maulana Mahmood Madani, the chief of the organization, while speakaing about the efforts of his organization, gave an outline of the things to come. According to him, the motto of the initiative is “to make youth capable of dealing with tough situations and help the country whenever there is a situation of crisis.” He said that the outfit will provide training to the youth just like the Scouts and Guides. Reacting to this the likes of Vinay Katiyar and spokesmen of RSS-related organizations said that this may promote violence and that this is an attempt to copy RSS model, but it will not work. While Madani focused on training like the Boy Scouts and Guides, the self-defence logic may lead it to an unwanted direction.

Spokesmen from some Muslim organizations have opposed this step of Jamiat by saying that Muslims have full faith in the justice system and that giving safety and security to the citizens is the duty of the State. It’s undeniable that the feeling of insecurity among the Muslim and Christian communities has seen an unprecedented rise with the coming of Modi Sarkar to power. As such it has been RSS and its progeny which introduced the training in wielding lathis (batons), guns in a systematic way. RSS shakhas began with lathis in their shakhas. The question is that at the time RSS shakhas started the major problem of the Indian society was with the British rule. Could they have used lathis against the British? No way! It was primarily for the use within society itself.

Bajrang Dal camp at Ayodhya

Since the last few decades the Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini have been given training in guns as well. All this has been done in the name of self-defence! What comes to one’s mind is that in post-independence period we have the rule of law with Indian Constitution as the fulcrum of our values. Here we have police and judiciary for protection and justice. So what justifies the programme of the RSS combine of their so-called arms training? RSS is very fascinated with arms and every Dusshera day they worship arms. They have an exhibition of arms. There are reports doubting whether the police have information about these arms with RSS, whether they do hold licences for same. While talking of non-violence; RSS has glorified arms and indulged in training young boys and girls in these weapons.

On the top of this, RSS affiliates have undertaken Trishul (trident) distributions. These trishuls, which have been distributed time and again, have contributed to rise in hate sentiments. Trishul has been religiosity associated with Lord Shiva and is blunt; while the trishuls distributed by these groups have sharp edges like a knife. Legal positions apart, such ‘self defence’ organized by communities is a negative phenomenon.

Dilemmas of Muslim community and organizations like Jamiat are well taken. What should be the role of minority organizations in such troubled times? There are Muslim organizations which are opposing Jamiat’s move. The community cannot be saved by training some youth in techniques of scouts and guide, neither in copying the methods of the RSS combine. What is needed is to call for proper implementation of justice and policing mechanism. Most of the communal violence reports tell us about the partisan attitude of the police and the lax attitude of political parties is the main reason for violence going up and up. Justice has not been delivered in 1984 anti-Sikh massacre; it might have given a major boost to the culture of impunity. In Mumbai, Sri Kirshna Commission report was not implemented, boosting the trend of where criminals can get away, innocents suffer and justice is denied. In Gujarat violence, post-Godhra, which took place right under the nose of the most efficient chief minster, nearly two thousand Hindus and Muslims were done to death while state was accomplice in the violence.

The Jamiat leadership should think whether they are going in the right direction. Good intentions alone are not enough. Let’s identify the core cause of violence. It’s the Hate manufactured in society. Hate in turn has peaked to mountainous heights due to the misconceptions about the minority community enhanced lately due to abuse of social media in a systematic and planned way. Islam has been demonized as a violent religion and Christians are looked down upon as converters. In Gujarat, the travails of the likes of Teesta Setalvad, foremost human rights activist, tell us that getting justice is a humongous task. The need to counter the divisive propaganda done by our TV channels, done through a section of media and spruced up by social media needs to be countered. The perceptions about our medieval period, freedom movement and the all-inclusive nature of Indian nationalism need to be taken far and wide.

What is needed is a broad alliance of those concerned about the security and protection of human rights of all. Right to life has lately been compromised heavily. All those working for the preservation and promotion of rights of citizens need to come to uphold the basic Indian ethos of pluralism and the core values of Indian Constitution. Jamiat-like organizations will do better by focusing on training the youth in the abilities to counter Hate by spreading the message of peace and love, by training them in countering the prevalent misconceptions against religious minorities and against weaker sections of society.