ਕਲੁ ਕਾਤੀ ਰਾਜੇ ਕਸਾਈ ਧਰਮ ਪੰਖ ਕਰੁ ਉਡਰਿਆ
Corona virus is upon us. So is the communal virus. It is more deadly, more poisonous, more toxic and more long lasting than the Corona Virus. The latter is also spreading very fast in India. Both its outbreak and spread is going to be pandemic. Once injected into the social fabric and body politic of India, its disastrous effects are bound to persist for a very long time, stunting the country's economic growth and socio-cultural fabric It is also sure to wreck the core values of India's so far sacrosanct constitution that "we the people" of India have enacted, nurtured, and preserved for the last seven decades so assiduously. Suddenly the Indian Nation, Indian society and Indian State seems to be losing all its fundamental moorings. Its image as a rising, liberal, democratic, secular, and developing nation among the comity of the modern nations has taken a severe beating. Major Organs of the State, the executive, legislature and judiciary and their related Institutions find their functioning impacted and impeded. In this context, Shyam Saran, the former Foreign Secretary and senior faculty, Centre for Policy Research has observed, "It (India) has been admired for the credibility of its institutions such as an independent judiciary, a professional election Commission and oversight institutions like CAG. Untill recently, the central statistics office enjoyed credibility for its professionalism and independent assessments and evaluation. On each of these counts, the high standards and norms observed in the past have been eroded. The controversy surrounding the CAA and the openly communal overtones in treating dissent over its contents raise questions about the Government's commitment to uphold constitutional principles. Political discourse sank to a new low during the recent Delhi campaign and provided the backdrop to riots. These began to be seen as the inevitable climax to a series of political acts of the government since it re-election including the abrogation of Article 370, the adoption of the CAA and the stated intent to have a nationwide NRC on the lines of highly divisive NPR exercise in Assam. (The Tribune, March 12, 2020, p. 8)
Even the United Nation's High Commissioner for Human rights (UNHCHR) Michella Bachelat has filed an intervention application in the Supreme Court in India in respect to the citizenship Amended Act (CAA), says/ writes Vivek Katju, former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs (The Tribune March 13, 2020, page 8). The High commissioner has stated that "There exists a number of religious groups inside these countries / Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan) especially of the Muslim faith, including Ahmadias, Hazaras and Shia Muslims whose situations would warrant protection on the same basis as that provided in the preferential treatment proposed by the CAA."
The fairly developed Indian Civil society, liberal, democratic and deeply public intellectual members of our society are finding their voices stifled and gagged. Every voice of dissent and genuine peaceful protests are being branded anti-national and being named, defamed and shamed as anti-national and vilified and branded as urban Naxals. They are being tagged on with similar abusive, derogatory terminology of belonging to "Tukde Tukde Gang" and being asked to go to Pakistan. Some of the leading scholars, social activists, human right defenders and student leaders, like litterateur Varvara Rao, civil rights activist intellectual and author Anand Teltumbde, National Secretary of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Sudha Bhardwaj, Lawyer and Human rights activist Arun Farreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Former PUCL Secretary Gautam Navlakha and Tribal rights activist Stan Swamy have been booked and put under house arrest under the obsolete British time dubious sedition law. Duly selected on merit and appointed Padam Bhubhasan Awardee, Prof Ramchander Guha a distinguished historian, Mahatma Gandhi's biographer and columnist could not join his appointment at a university at Ahmedabad due to hindutva vigilante group's opposition. An another Professor Feroze Khan, a Muslim scholar of Sanskrit appointed as Assistant Professor in the literature department of the Sanskrit Vidyadharma, Vijnan (SVDV) in the Banaras University had to resign and under the Hindutva vigilante protest and change his department in order to save his job. Human right activists Harsh Mander's anti-CAA speech was edited and its parts were selectively put over TV Channels again and again and paraded in the Supreme Court against him during the hearing of a public interest writ petition filed by him. Freedom of the press and electronic media channels have been compromised and Journalists covering communal riots are being attacked, injured/ wounded and even killed. India's religious, cultural, linguistic, racial, ethnic diversity, since times immemorial, together with its remarkable unity in diversity is sought to be homogenised and being made subservient to the majoritarian Hindutva ideology. Country's socio-cultural environment is being stifled and suffocating for sensitive, educated and enlightened Indian citizens in general and members of minority communities in particular. The passing of resolutions against the implementation of citizen Amendment Act CAA and National Register of Citizen (NRC) by more than half a dozen state legislatures and peaceful protests against these oppressive and discriminatory measures all over the country are an evidence of this prevailing suffocating environment. Almost round the clock telecast of 'Sri Krishna' serial on two popular entertainment channels at present smacks of Hindutva dictats. All these ominous events and media projections point towards the intended conversion of the comparatively reasonably peaceful, tolerant, secular democratic Indian, nation and society into diabolical, majoritarian, authoritarian, Orwellian, totalitarian and ideological Hindutva dominated Hindu Rashtra. It would be worth dispassionate analysis to analyze the major events, forces responsible for the present State of this all pervasive communal hatred and feeling of insecurity among the minorities in the chronological order.
It all started with the change of political guard at the central government level and some of the bigger States following parliamentary elections in 2014. Starting with the vandalisation of Christian churches, imposed observance of Christmas day as "Good governance day" in central educational schools and 45 central Universities to mob lyinching of the members of the major minority community, the Muslims on the pretext of cow slaughter and beef eating, to the appointment of far right Hindutva ideologues like Dina Nath Batra, Sudarshan Rao, Chanderkala Padia, Ved Parkash, to the Apex-level Indian educational and cultural bodies like the NCERT, Indian council of Historical Research, IAAS Shimla, and UGC respectively, to name of a few. It was followed by attributing all the inventions and advances in modern medical and plastic surgery and missile technology to and having their roots in the ancient Prevadic and Vedic texts as illustrated through Lord Ganesha's typical anatomy and mythical Brahm Astras used in Mahabharta and touting of cow urine as the panacea for all human ailments including the latest covid-19 corona virus. Combined with the media hype given to such half truths and selective mob lynching of Muslims going unpunished occurred the sad spectacle of mysterious Pulwama Bomb blast killing forty Jawans of paramilitary forces and the counter air strike by India at Balakot in Pakistan. Despite the full details of these two cataclysmic incidents being kept away from the public domain under the pretext of national security, these two incidents had emboldened the ruling political dispensation to fight the 2019 parliamentary election on the Ultra-nationalist and Hindutva majoritarian plank and win a land slide victory and a massive majority in Parliament in 2019. With the brute majority in Parliament, it has abrogated the article 370 together including section 35A unilaterally without the required ratification by the J & K State assembly which it had already dissolved and dismembered the State parcelling it into two union territories with the muted acquiescence of the opposition parties for the fear of being branded antinational. It was followed by more discriminatory legislations of NRC and CAA all intended to exclude the major minority community. This ultra-nationalist hype reached its climax during the pre-election period of provincial election to the Delhi legislature. The vitriotic, most unpalatable hate speeches against the minority community led by the union Home Minister, Junior Ministers and other BJP leaders proving counterproductive and resulting in ignominious defeat of BJP resulted in the worst three day communal riots in Northeast Delhi on February 24-26, 2020. Large scale violence, looting, arson continued for three days without any let or hindrance from the Delhi Police under the direct gaze of the highest authorities of the Indian State. The Judge who dared to intervene and ordered the authorities to shift the dead and the dying to better medical facilities and register cases against hate-speech mongers was transferred at midnight and the criminal cases against the guilty hate speech mongers have still not been registered so far. Majority of the dead during these riots belong to the Minority Muslim community with the maximum damage to their homes and hearths. The Sham investigation, being conducted against the perpetrators of this communal violence through the use of the much touted facial identification software is going to be highly disastrous and highly discriminatory. The use of face identification technology has been declared unsafe, partial, biased and discriminatory and endorsed by European Union proposal to put a ban on facial-recognization technology by the highest IT professionals like Sundar Pichai, Alphabet Chief Executive and Brad Smith, President, Microsoft. "While Pichai cited the possibility that the technology could be used for nefarious purposes as a reason for a moratorium, Smith said a ban was akin to using a meat cleaver instead of a scalpel to solve potential problems.(Business Today, Jan 21, 2020) This kind of vicious public discourse laced with the selective doses of sedition laws, mob lynching of innocent individuals, and beating of peacefully protesting students in JNU and Jamia Millia and planned communal riots are turning a comparatively peaceful, tolerant and co-existing Indian society into a fragmented majority verses minority blocks The latest in this series is the brazen naming and shaming of enlightened citizens protesting against the CAA by putting of the names of prominent citizens with their residential addresses on Bill Boards and placed at a public places at Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh.
To sum up, the extremely suffocating environment prevailing in the country at present, it would be appropriate to quote Ashish Nandy, the well-known political psychologist, social analyst and Honorary fellow at the centre of studies for developing societies, New Delhi from his recorded interview published in the Tribune March 8, 2020, p. 11 where he remarks, "Yes, you can say that Savarkar who has been deeply influenced by the Western Model of the modern Nation State is now the unofficial father of the nation. Gandhi is kind of step father of the Indian nation State. "So, what a fall my countrymen from the prayer like dream of Rabindranath Tagore, the author of India's National anthem:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way.
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit.
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever widening thought and action.
In to that heaven of freedom, my father,
LET MY COUNTRY AWAKE!"
Recently, the extremely callous and indifferent attitude of this ruling combine shown towards the homeless migrant workers following the sudden and unplanned countrywide lockdown has further sullied the image of this intolerant political outfit. The way million of the jobless workers including women and children mostly from the backward castes have been denied free rail and road transport and compelled to walk on foot in the scorching heat of June and starve further reveals the cruel and inhuman face of these power drunk inhuman rulers. To quote Najeeb Jung and Supdipto Mundle from The Indian Express, June 4, 2020, "Scenes of migrant labourers returning home, thirsty, hungry and helpless shall be a scar on India forever. Images of men, women and children walking in 44 degrees celsius heat, on dusty roads and fields, often subject to police lathis, at times densely packed into trucks and tempos, a young man cradling a dying friend, a mother delivering a baby by the roadside, dry rotis and stale eatables splattered on railway tracks as bodies crushed under a train are taken for cremation unknown and unsung, the mad rush at disorganized bus and railway stations, are now firmly embedded within our minds."
The Sikhs, being the second major minority, must also need to be conscious about safeguarding their distinct religious identity and its institutions. Although the Sikhs as a community have played a commendable role by cooperating with the supporting the anti-CAA protests at Delhi and within Punjab, its religio-political leadership's role is still ambivalent. The office bearers and members of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) seem to be hand in glove with this rabidly communal ruling combine. It is at this critical moment in the post-independence India that all the enlightened members of the considerably sizeable civil society, majority and minority communities and non-BJP political parties should put up a united opposition to check the onslaught of this pandemic communal virus and preserve and promote the core values of our constitution.
The Akali Sikh leadership is also guilty of supporting the three anti-farmer ordinances of the Central Government namely Essential Commodities Act, the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce [FOTC] and Farmers Agreement and Price Assurance and Farmers Services ordinance 2020. These three ordinances are manifestly anti-farmer, particularly against the economic interests of sikh farmers of Punjab. These ordinances seek to dismantle the highly beneficial current APMC marketing system operative in Punjab benefitting both the farmers and the rural economy of Punjab. With the entry of big corporates in agricultural marketing and contract farming, the central government intends to withdraw the FCI from purchase of foodgrains on MSP, thereby denying the farmers the benefit of assured and guaranteed minimum price of their produce. Despite the Akali leaderships's public assurances to fight for the farmers's cause, their support to these ordinances at the centre exposes their hypocrisy and double dealing. Far from being the champions of farmers' welfare, they seem to be collaborators in the anti –farmer Modi regime's policies.. It is time, they should introspect and review their core political agenda.
ਕਲਿ ਕਾਤੀ ਰਾਜੇ ਕਾਸਾਈ ਧਰਮੁ ਪੰਖ ਕਰਿ ਉਡਰਿਆ ॥ ਕੂੜੁ ਅਮਾਵਸ ਸਚੁ ਚੰਦ੍ਰਮਾ ਦੀਸੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਕਹ ਚੜਿਆ ॥ ਹਉ ਭਾਲਿ ਵਿਕੁੰਨੀ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਅੰਧਿਆਰੈ ਰਾਹੁ ਨ ਕੋਈ ॥ ਵਿਚਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਕਰਿ ਦੁਖੁ ਰੋਈ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਕਿਨਿ ਬਿਧਿ ਗਤਿ ਹੋਈ ॥ – Guru Granth Sahib, p. 145