Secularism under threat!
THOUGH the opposition parties, the Congress in particular, have been treading cautiously not to upset the guardians of law, it is gradually getting crystal clear that the deaths of eleven protesters during the recent violent agitation by Dalits against dilution of constitutional provisions for their safeguard has provided the firepower to non-BJP political organisations; excluding the NDA allies, to project the BJP-headed Union government as anti-thesis to the secular ethos of India. With AICC president Rahul Gandhi leading his party on a nationwide fast on Monday over a variety of issues including alleged caste and communal violence during the NDA-II stint, the Congress has set the tone for the 2019 parliamentary elections, which in all probability will be contested on developmental agenda but intense bickering on issues related to social discord. Even as the BJP government currently faces criticism for the deaths of the Dalit protesters in addition to rival political parties raking up incidents such as attacks on churches and Christian institutions in the formative years of the government and periodical reports about thrashing of Dalits and other minority communities by cow vigilantes, The Times of India reported in August 2015 that there were 10 cases of so-called anti-Christian attacks between May 26, 2013 and March 31, 2014, when UPA was in power. It also came up with a comparison that between installation of the Modi government on May 26, 2014 and March 31, 2015, 11 cases of targeting minority communities and institutions were reported. The national daily, citing access to secret documents, linked most acts of violence to electric short-circuit, unintentional throwing of stone by a kid, suspected cases of burglary and involvement of Bangladeshi immigrants in a rape case.
While the said report exposed vulnerability of secularism in the country from political organisations of different colours and symbols, recent cases of violence perpetrated against religious minority or Dalits in different states, especially the widely publicised incident of four Dalit men tied to a car and flogged in public while a video was made of them in Prime Minister’s home state and BJP-ruled Gujarat put the ruling party in the national limelight for the wrong reason. Substantiating general apprehension about growing religious intolerance in the country was a write-up by then Union minister for urban development and information & broadcasting minister M Venkaiah Naidu in the Indian Express in August 2016 wherein Dalit atrocities were described as a carryover from the Congress era. Naidu’s opinion in the article, which was a counter to the horrifying incidents of violence against Dalits reported in the preceding few months, gave the impression of driving home the message that atrocious acts of violence and persecution had been a part and parcel of the Indian political system. Considering the fact that the electoral politics in the country is bereft of a mechanism to keep away elements who believe that votes could be won on the strength of muscle and money power, the ordinary citizens are limited to take side with the known devil or the unknown and hope that whichever party comes to power in the country or states deliver what has been promised to them and not destabilise the society on the lines of religion or casteism to cling to power.