It is grossly unfair to accuse Modi alone for the growing intolerance in India today

Published: November 12, 2015
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The first sign of communal disharmony took place between Hindus and Muslims after the Babri Masjid demolition during the Congress government. PHOTO: AFP

India has been the cradle of religious pluralism for centuries. It is one of the few countries in the world that has been home for people belonging to different religions, castes, creeds, cultures, languages that, not only seamlessly assimilated to the Indian ethos, but also contributed significantly to the art and culture. Moreover, for centuries, Hindus, Muslims, Christians have coexisted peacefully. This has been primarily due to the tolerance shown by the Hindus towards people professing other faiths. 

India, during the Mughal rule, excelled in art and culture – the many monuments we see today, like the Taj Mahal, Red Fort, and Agra Fort are a standing testimony to the great contributions made by the Mughals to the cultural tapestry of India.

The advent of the British rule completely changed the complexion of Hindu-Muslim relations. The ‘divide and rule’ policy of the British sowed the first seed of disharmony between the two communities that coexisted peacefully for centuries.  The continuation of distrust between India and Pakistan is a legacy of the divisive policy of the British.

History shows us how tolerant Hindus have been. It is for this reason various communities who faced persecution in their countries chose India as their destination. Even today, the Bangladeshi Muslims prefer to take refuge in India than any other Muslim country. So is the case with Muslims from Myanmar. Mahatma Gandhi, in one of his speeches on Hinduism, said,

“Since Hinduism is based on truth and nonviolence, it can never oppose any other religion. Hinduism strives for the betterment of all religions, and through them of the entire world.”

Romain Rolland, the French scholar, while talking about India said:

“If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.”

After India gained independence, Nehru ensured that both the communities lived peacefully. Except for stray incidents, one never came across any incident of communal disharmony. All this changed when Indira Gandhi became the prime minister. India saw one of the worst riots in 1984 when over 3,000 members of the Sikh community were massacred to avenge the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguard. It was the first time the complicity of the ruling party came to the fore in the dastardly attacks against a particular community. However, the Delhi police, who could have prevented the massacre by taking effective steps, chose to be mute bystanders. It was the members of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who came to the rescue of the Sikhs, and if it wasn’t for their help, thousands of Sikhs would have lost their lives.

Similarly, the killings of innocent Kashmiri pundits and displacement of over 100,000 Kashmiri Hindus also happened during the Congress watch. The Congress did nothing to protect them.

The first sign of communal disharmony took place between Hindus and Muslims after the Babri Masjid demolition during the Congress government. In spite of the intelligence reports that some fundamental groups would converge at Ayodhya, the birth place of Lord Ram, where Babri Masjid is also situated, to demolish the mosque, the Congress government did little to prevent the demolition. As a backlash, thousands of people belonging to both the communities lost their lives. Matters between both the communities have not been same. In fact, to avenge the demolition, an Indian mujahideen was formed, and we have seen many incidents of terrorist activities since then. Fortunately, over the years, the Hindus and Muslims have come to realise the futility of adopting a confrontational approach, which did them no good, except bringing misery to both the communities.

It is in this context that the so-called secular forces put all the blame of isolated  incidents, including the unfortunate killing of Akhlaq, who was falsely charged for keeping beef in his house, is seen as a deliberate attempt by vested interests to discredit Modi.

It is true that the hateful rhetoric of a few BJP politicians, unfortunately, has gone unchecked, giving one the impression that has the official sanction. Such a feeling is far from the truth as Modi won the elections on a ‘development plank’, and his slogan, ‘Sab ka saath, sab ka vikas’ (Together with all, development for all) caught the attention of people across caste and religion. It would be grossly unfair to accuse Modi alone for all the wrongs happening in the society today.

It is true that we have lately been seeing few incidents of intolerance in the country. But many such incidents, like smearing ink on Sudheendra Kulkarni’s facecancellation of Ghulam Ali’s concert in Mumbai, protests against book launch by Khursheed Kasuri, are the handiwork of some zealots belonging to Shiv Sena, and not the BJP. Even in the case of the unfortunate murder of Akhlaq, the finger of suspicion points out to few fringe elements, and not directly to BJP.

Any dispassionate analysis would reveal that there were more than 50 communal incidents during the Congress regime against the Gujarat riots. Another riot took place in 2013 in Muzaffarnagar, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where 42 Muslims and 20 Hindus were killed, engineered by few fringe elements. The non-BJP ruled state government and the Congress government were found ineffectual in bringing the perpetrators to book. In 2012, riots broke out in Kokrajhar in Assam which took the lives of 77 people, and around 70,000 people from about 500 villages were uprooted from their homes.  The riots took place between the local tribal community and Bengali-speaking Muslims of the region, mainly immigrants who had come from Bangladesh. Once again, the riots happened in a Congress-ruled state. The attempt of the Congress leaders to demonise Narendra Modi smacks of jealousy of his getting a clear mandate in the last elections.

As communal harmony is a prerequisite for economic development, the Modi government should take immediate steps to reign in some of the ministers and members of the party, who have the habit of putting their foot into their mouth. Their hateful rhetoric is adversely affecting the image of India. The recent rout of BJP in the recently held Bihar elections is a testimony to the secular credentials of Hindus, who have out-rightly rejected divisive politics. Modi has repeatedly been saying that he wants to see people from all communities to prosper in India. In spite of his unpopularity in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Modi has announced INR Rs80, 000 crores for the development of the state.

However, in order to demonstrate to Muslims and Christians that he genuinely believes in the welfare, he must take immediate steps to deal firmly with his errant ministers, and a few hotheads in his party. This will go a long way to assuage their feelings, instead of keeping silent. He should also learn from the Bihar elections that the divisive politics will no longer succeed in India.

I sincerely hope the success of the last elections does not go to Modi’s head, as there is a chance of slipping into a delusion of invincibility. I would caution Modi by quoting a beautiful poem on the subject by Habib Jalib:

Tumse pehle wo jo ek shaks yaha takht nasheen tha

 Usko bhi apna khuda hone ka ithna hi yakeen tha

Koi thehra ho jo logon ki mukabil tho batao

 Wo kaha hei, ke jinhe naaz apne tayeen tha!”

(The one before you who were enthroned

Also had the illusions of being our God

The ones who stood by the people will tell

How the proud and arrogant, all, fell!)

K S Venkatachalam

K S Venkatachalam

The author is an independent journalist and political commentator. He specialises in writing on political, social and economic issues. His articles have appeared in many Indian and International newspapers like Huffington Post, Global Times, South China Morning Post, The Hindu. He tweets as @Venkat48 (twitter.com/venkat48)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Linux Novice

    Good balanced analysis among a sea of prejudiced ones.Recommend

  • Ahmedi,Quadian,Punjab

    Modi is here to stay for atleast 10 years if not 15 years….In India Indians know what they want…no one is close to modi at present who can give him a fight against his policies of development…..India is not pakistan and will never like to become one….pakistan is a pureland,the land of so called muslims who are all converted….I have never undertand one point…muslims went on to make a country for muslims…because they thought india is hindu/or they cant live with hindu majority….they made islamic republic…but they have problem if india does not remain secular..why??…did we question your bangaldeshi credentials…or sending muslim children as suicide bombers in kashmir…or zia ul haq killing 25ooo palestine…are we questioning your killing of innocent afganis…by supporting terrorist….are we questioning killing of balochis/killing of >50,000 muslims by muslims in pakistan….its outright no….and if some goons killed a single muslim in india….den pakistanis and so called indian sickulars feel..intlerance…does these man respresnt whole india…no….Recommend

  • amoghavarsha.ii

    no mention of actuall killing of rationalists??????
    no mention of RSS, VHP, Bajrangdal, etc.,????
    what kind of article or analysis is this????

    Actual intolerance problem in the present started after murder of pansare and kalburgi in the space of months, klarburgi and pansare were mere authors of rational thinking. Previous violence on sikhs were by political supporters not religious hot heads. It was not riot, not threat and murder sending message to other authors to toe the there line of thinking.

    Like this we can give many reasons for not to compare older killings in to present situation.

    People of all like you should not be supporting a silent PM, Silence by PM is seen as secret back pat by the preps,

    Modi just needs to speak unambiguously that he will strike at people who are extremists and take stern action on motor mouths, then everybody will fall in line.Recommend

  • Milind A

    Thank you Mr. Author for a rational analysis devoid of the typical Modi-bashing practiced by other ‘secular’ writers…Recommend

  • wb

    It’s grossly unfair to even say that there’s growing intolerance in the country. Where is this growing intolerance?

    I don’t want post all the links here again. I have written umpteen times with evidence how there’s a threat to Hindus from Islamists (be it the murder of of a VHP worker in Madikeri or the murder of Prashant Pujari or the stabbing of the constable in MH). And between 2013-14 at least 6 riots were started by Musilms.

    The problem in India is, for the last 70 years and even today Muslims have been bullying and killing non-Muslims (this includes Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and others). Nobody talked of intolerance.

    Muslims cannot even tolerate secularism in India and oppose UCC.

    And the god honest truth is, this trend continues even today.

    But the communal, anti-Hindu, anti-secular media of India is busy highlighting the few incidences where Hindus have aggressor. Fine, highlight it. You have every right.

    But were you when Prashant Pujari was murdered over beef? Where were you when a tyrant like Tipu Sultan was turned into a Hero?

    So, this manufactured (read anti-Hindu) intolerance by media will not pass. And if this continues, the voters will show it in the next parliament elections also.Recommend

  • Amy

    Great, informative article which gives us a more balanced view of the situation.It’s been 6 decades, and we are still fighting without any gain.The only thing that has increased in both Pakistan and India is poverty, sadly.RESPECT and LOVE everyone irrespective of status and religionRecommend

  • mimi sur

    I beg to differ . British gov only utilized the hatred which was brewing among Hindus and Muslims after decades of Islamic invaders . Hindus were around 95%, when Islamic invaders arrived. Somnnath temple was looted 17 times and millions of pregnant women were murdered as they tried to erase us . Ziziya tax was imposed on majority of population. many Sikh Gurus were murdered because they refuse to convert. Mass scale forcible conversion happened during Muslim era, starting from Nizam and Tipu in South to Mughal in North . A mountain range was named after “Kill Hindus” . These are only few instances. Much before Islam had arrived in southern coast of Kerala .

    British gov was not religious fundamentalists. They only looted resources of India, they never imposed their religion on Indians. When they found it difficult to capture whole of India, they only invoked the hatred which was already there . A country became 2, then became 3 . Hindus were tolerant and are tolerant. Hindus always followed culture and language of land, not outside culture or language or religion. But do not take it as granted. After all they are also human being.Recommend

  • amoghavarsha.ii

    you do not know who is Prashant Pujari, if you knew, you would not write about him. Prashat Pujari is not the person whom u can trust with your wealth, women or land.Recommend

  • amoghavarsha.ii

    this growing intolerance is because hindus are killing hindus,
    u r sitting far away to know.Recommend

  • amoghavarsha.ii

    you do not know anything about hindus or india.
    you do not know basic problem of why people get converted too.
    read santan dharma books, after that you don’t have to blame others for conversion.Recommend

  • abhi

    The killing of the rationalist is by no way linked with BJP and it happened during congress rule. There are even more assaults on writers like cutting the hand of professor in kerala, threats to taslima and denail of entry in India for Salman rushdie. Why don’t you list these also in your comments?Recommend

  • Parvez

    Possibly Modi is allowing the ‘ true face ‘ of India to be seen……is that bad thing ?Recommend

  • wb

    Really? So, where am I sitting?

    There’s no intolerance except for in bigoted heads.

    And I can spot you no matter what fake-name you use Motiwala.Recommend

  • wb

    What utter nonsense! Why would I trust anyone with my wealth, women or land? And what the heck has that got to do with his murder by 8 Musilms for being an anti-beef activist?

    You clearly want to defend the Muslims who killed an innocent man and you have nothing to defend him.Recommend

  • wb

    Rationalists were killed even during Congress rule.

    Rationalists like Tasleema Nassreen were harassed and bullied by Islamists. So, what has changed today? What’s new now?

    Stop lying. Your defenses are weak and you’re struggling with words.Recommend

  • wb

    Motiwala, Lahorewala, Karachiwala, Rangoonwala…I can spot you among a billion people. Maybe it’s our love affair.

    Only you can write Santan Dharma and write Santan Dharma books. Man, you’re so easy.Recommend

  • JP

    WRONG. This man is an apologist for BJP, RSS, Shiv Sena and
    other assorted extremists and terrorists in India. Indians love ink?
    “unfortunate hanging of Akhlaq”…”Hateful rhetoric of a few BJP
    leaders.” Wow! Nothing about Modi’s silence. Nothing about the
    venom spewed perpetually by Sadhvi Prachi. Nothing about the
    hate sermons of the cabal of sadhus all over the Hindu Desh. Nothing
    about the returning of awards, medals, by writers, educationists, artists,
    actors, intellectuals etc. etc. Which has never happened before.
    It was the fault of the British Raj and then by Congress Party’s misrule.
    Poor sanctimonious Modi, Advani, Arun Jaitley, Amit Shah had nothing
    to do with igniting communal violence, sectarian violence and religious persecution of Indian minorities. They are blameless. Poor souls did
    nothing wrong. It’s a conspiracy.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    On the contrary, the ‘true face’ of India is being shown to Modi – by Indians! And that is certainly no bad thing.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Prashant Pujari was a better man than you can ever aspire to be. Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Muslims are a threat to the world and themselves.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    How can you say the people who killed them were hindus. has anyone been arrested. It was probably the handiwork of muslims the same way as the church vandalism and the rape of a nun were done by muslims.Recommend

  • Sane

    Just ha….ha….ha…. you are burning, smell is everywhere.Recommend

  • Sane

    This looks your profession is to be on a Pakistani news blog. Recommend

  • mimi sur

    Probably incidents like Syria, Iraq,Pakistan must have happened. If such thing happens in 21st century, can’t imagine what would have happened in those ages.Recommend

  • mimi sur

    Probably incidents like Syria, Iraq,Pakistan must have happened. If such thing happens in 21st century, can’t imagine what would have happened in those ages.Recommend

  • Ram

    Before Babri Masjid in my town in south India We use to find out who won the India/Pakistan cricket match by listening which side of the town is bursting crackers, Muslims who could not speak a decent Urdu who were born and brought up in India for generations supported Pakistan, they enjoyed all the reservations and facilities they got from government but still supported Pakistan, However things changed in recent years better or worst most of muslims realized that they cannot get exploited for vote bank and pakistan is not Janath for Muslims,Recommend

  • LS

    Congress was so peaceful that most deadliest riots took place under them. You cannot get over the CONgress. Good luck to you. The people who are returning the awards are insulting the nation. A political Party does not give an award an award is given by the nation, the people of the Nation and they just promptly insulted them. None of these fake nationalist rose when hundreds of Hindus were systematically being killed in Kashmir. None of these CONgressi did anything or have done anything against for their vote banks. The appeasement policy just ran too long and their time is DONE. There would never be CONgress to name in the future and they ARE reduced to nothing.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Very interesting…….this has certainly developed into a bipolar national debate.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    They have as much hand in present day unfortunate events as much as these protesters and then ruling governments have in ethnic cleansing of pandits from the valley and innumerable other mob violence witnessed by India in the time gone. Recommend

  • Bibloo

    Smoke coming out of his pointed ears.Recommend

  • amoghavarsha.ii

    sanatana dharma, yes difficult to write in english, also I am in Bangalore, Indian, Hindu.
    so, what ever you think and believe is only useful to you, same for me what ever I think, believe is only useful to me.
    I know how BJP/RSS/VHP hindus work, have seen them all in close quarters.
    Also seen how people get converted to other religions from hinduism…….not accepting faults of ones religion is biggest cowardice, which is actually reverse of religion itself.Recommend

  • amoghavarsha.ii

    don’t need to lie to you of all, I don’t have any monetary benefit even of commenting!!
    Tasleema was not killed, the rationalist was killed during congress rule in karnataka only.
    but he was killed knowing fully well the consequence? Like Godse .
    The new now is the openness, the confidence that he will be protected.
    The silence itself is clear that there is saammathi in the act.
    Silience on the brutal act is always seen as indirect encouragement or slight pat on the back.Recommend

  • amoghavarsha.ii

    how true you are,
    google patan, 149 and 150. in gujarat.
    you will know the more than millenium problem of sanatan dharm, still existing in India.Recommend

  • Abhai Sharma

    I wonder how suddenly people are waking up to an intolerant India. Did India become intolerant overnight ? Much worse acts of intolerance have been seen in the past, like murder of social worker Navleen Kumar in Virar during congress regime, killing of several officers by congress goons, Burning of scribe in UP by Mulayam Singh’s minister. I wonder why no one protested or is protesting against such incidents. By the way, did anyone return awards when 100000 Kashmir Pandits were expelled from the valley by Muslim extremists and congress failed to provide any protection.Recommend