In recent past unity of Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Christians was a slogan which was heard in different parts of country as leaders including father of nation Mahatma Gandhi, first prime Minister Jawahar lal Nehru worked hard to maintain the unity of the country even though India had been divided on religious lines by dividing it and creating a separate nation that is Pakistan.
This, however, did not change the commitment of Indian leaders to make India into a secular country where everyone had rights irrespective of religion or caste to which he belonged.
Many popular films were also made to emphasize the theme of laison between youngmen and young women belonging to different religions, even some living in India or Pakistan. Violence in name of religion was strongly condemned and no opportunity was lost to emphasise the secular character of India. This thinking received a further boost when Bangladesh emerged as a separate nation cutting off its links with Pakistan after the war in 1991.
This is not to suggest that minorities were treated fairly or received their due share. The communal riots continued to take place, minority share in services remained dismal, they also continued to suffer because of economic backwardness, Lack of education and poor representation in political set up also remained. But no one openly questioned right of minorities as Indian nationals to equality or to cast doubts about their loyalty to the country. Secular parties while making verbal promises took no practical steps to improve their lot.
As such the question being asked is what has changed in last three years which has made the minority community scared or created a feeling among them that they are being treated as second class citizens. To start with BJP which was voted to power with a slogan of development of all has reduced Muslim participation in governance of country to zero and has almost eliminated them as they have not fielded any candidates from minority community. The feeling of alienation was further increased when slogans like “love Jihad” “Ghar Wapisi” were raised.
The feeling of insecurity took a big jump when a wave of lynching started in different parts of country in the name of cow vigilantism. Such incidents are continuing, even though some half hearted efforts had been made to condemn them. The attempts to ban slaughter of animals in the name of regulating the trade has created suspicion in the minds of many that the ruling party is trying to change eating habits of people. Surprisingly prime Minister Narendra Modi who misses no opportunity to boast about his record of corruption free governance has not spoken about these incidents while other leaders of BJP finds an escape route by suggesting that law and order was a state subject and such incidents took place in the past also.
With passage of time the feeling of insecurity is no more limited to Muslim community only as Dalits who also work in large numbers in skinning of animals and leather trade are also becoming targets of self styled cow protection groups. The Dalits who were wooed before the poll to Lok Sabha in 2014 and U.P Assembly poll in 2017 are also becoming victims of igh caste Hindus particularly Thakurs who feel emboldened with installation of Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister of U.P The upper caste Hindus feel that they suffered when state was being ruled by Yadavs or Mayawati They allege that Yadavs and Dalits enjoyed edge during that period. As such in first instance Yogi undertook reshuffle of postings in which balance was shifted in favour of upper castes, traditional supporters of BJP.
It is no secret that caste system in India has always denied full representation to backwards and Dalits. Even after providing reservations, the domination of high castes has continued. Even Dalits who converted to Sikhism or Christianity have not been fully absorbed and are discriminated against when a search is made for brides or grooms. It is surprising that our film makers who have made many films to show affairs between boys and girls belonging to different religions, have not taken up alliances between couples belonging to different castes as film subject.
This in many cases has led to honour killings and in several cases police and courts had to interfere. Looking at the fact that Dalits are being attacked by upper caste Hindus in different parts of U.P we may soon have to coin a slogan “Thakur-Dalit Bhai Bhai” if BJP is to retain its base among Dalits in the poll in 2019.There is urgent need to provide security of life as in its absence economic progress is not possible. (Brij Bhardwaj is a veteran journalist and commentator) [IFS]