Religious Polarization and Political Mobilization

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(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)

Religious polarization in India is real what with all political parties and their leaders making strident appeals to their vote banks to rally and vote for them – political mobilization.

For example, on 6/7 April 2019 Mayawati at the first joint rally held by the two alliance partners in 25 years at Deoband made a open appeal to Muslims: Don’t Let Your Votes Get Split by Siding With Congress;  It’s not the Congress but the alliance which is fighting the BJP. Congress wants to ensure the alliance does not win. Congress is trying to help the BJP in this election.”

As per media reports,  in West Bengal,  Imams and clerics all over India under the banner of the All India Milli Council have not only sent thousands of letters urging Muslims to vote for ‘secular’ parties, but also using sermons to urge community members to vote for a secular party that has the maximum chance of winning in their areas.

In West Bengal alone, 10,000 letters have been sent by the state chapter of the Islamic body, signed by its president Qari Fazlur Rahman, the imam who leads Eid namaz at Red Road, and the vice president Maulana Shafique Qasmi, the imam of Nakhoda Masjid. Quoting an Islamic scholar, the letter also said even if Muslims say their ‘namaz’ on time five times a day, it would amount to nothing if there is no political consciousness among them.

Mamata Banerjee flirtation with Muslim minority community is well known and recorded in pursuit of power. Mamata has given allowance to Imams and muezzins, covers her head and attends prayers, mixes Arabic words with Bengali in public meetings and even has inducted men who practice right-wing politics in the name of minority rights.

Next, the rise of Owaisi brothers, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), in the forefront of rallying Muslim minorities to reassert their ‘democratic clout’ unitedly in favor of their own candidates is making steady inroads all over India.  Very frequently, media projects him as the voice of the Muslims lambasting the secular parties for their failings and declaring his ambition of forging a social alliance between Muslims and Dalits.

Not to be seen left behind, Navjyot Singh Sidhu, who left the BJP 3-years ago on being denied ticket in 2014, and now the Tourism Minister in Punjab, is the Congress Party’s star campaigner, whose invoking the religious rhetoric to seek minority votes based on secularism plank.

Sidhu is hogging limelight with his brand of vicious politics. On 16 April 2019 at KATIHAR in Bihar, Sidhu fired his first salvo against the BJP claiming that the BJP is trying to divide the Muslims. “You are in a 64% majority here; if you get united – the minorities is in a majority here – and vote together, Modi will be defeated. You will hit a six. Hit such a sixer that Modi lands outside the boundary.” Of course, the Election Commission banned him from campaigning on 22 April 2019 for 72 hours

Undeterred by the EC ban, Sidhu was at his acerbic – venomous and poisonous – best pouring vitriolic at Modi and the BJP at Indore on 11 May 2019  in Madhya Pradesh “to free the country from the rule of “Kale Angrez” (Black Britishers) and “Chowkidar”, that is,  the ruling BJP.

Sidhu used choices abuses against Modi: “Rashtra drohi or traitor”, “liar-in-chief, divider-in-chief and business manager of Ambani and Adani”. He also compared: “Modiji is like that bride who makes less rotis but makes more noise so that the neighborhood knows she is working.

Sanjay Nirupam,  called him ‘modern-day avatar of Aurangzeb’ accusing Modi for demolishing temples for the Varanasi Corridor and levying Rs.500/- entry fee for Kashi Vishwanath Temple.

Add to them, Rahul and Priyanka Ghandy’s sly religious rhetoric against Modi led BJP and hate-love campaigning based on presenting “Soft-Hindu” face by visiting numerous temples and saints.

In retrospect and objectively reviewed, Newton’s third law – action-reaction – is bound to play key part in ever increasing consolidation of religious polarization. According to the law, the force exerted by object 1 (Islam and Muslim) upon object 2 (Hinduism and Hindus) is equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to the force exerted by object 2 upon object 1. After all, the nature of the Muslim polarization under the Mullahs and Imams through Masjid and Madras as (against Model Code of Conduct Provision) is bound to promote Hindu polarization.

Religion is a means to end in politics particularly so in India what with the bitter divide developed by the “secularists” and the “communalists” ever since the rise of the BJP. As per behavioral experts, relative deprivation or future inequality (political, territorial, or economic) as perceived grievances could be certainly keys to political mobilization.

Of course, Mark Twain had hailed “India is the cradle of the human race, the birth place of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Utmost valuable and most constructive material in the history of man is treasured up in India only”. Ironically, the leadership of modern India is devastating and destroying the inherited greatness of India to dust status.

Majority of political leaders in pursuit of power and the so called intellectuals, scholars and free lance analysts inexorably fail to admit and take into account ‘demographic transitions” sweeping modern India, which is spreading paranoia/persecution complex among the majority community.

Ironic but true, by trends extrapolation, India’s population from the present over 136.66 crores as of 11 May, 2019, based on the latest United Nations estimates, is likely to cross at the present growth rate assuming it to be 1%, will be nearly 150 crores by 2029 with prospects of reaching 165 crores by 2039 and over 181 crores by 2049. Add to it, 5% unaccounted population!

How can India with all its natural resources looted and scooted ever create job opportunities for the above forecasted population explosion? Neither Rahul Ghandy nor Mamata, Mayawati, Arvind Kejriwal, Chandrababu Naidu and other opposition stalwarts tackled “Jobs Crisis” in their own backyards. What is, therefore, happening is “blame game” politics on grand display?

No need for intellectual brilliance to predict India descending into dysfunctional anarchic abyss consequent to “fractured verdict” in 2019 elections?

Religious polarization is inevitable considering the most vicious politics on grand display.

As per current global trends, even modernizing societies are growing more communal than secular over time. Secularization theory is becoming steadily irrelevant.  Factually, religiosity and/or practice are expanding and consolidating even in advanced industrialized western democracies. Look at the “white supremacists’ ascendency in the USA.

What with job opportunities bleak, educated and unemployed youth are most vulnerable to rally and mobilize under communal labels. There is no escape from such a prospect unfolding in posterity. Let none suffer from grandiose illusions on the above count.

Following the churning incendiary religious rhetoric, political mobilization on narrow sectarian lines is increasingly getting consolidated. Deep inside the psyche of youth on both sides, particularly the radical fringe elements are focusing on theology and differences between religions as motivating factors in political mobilization. Even elites are getting motivated and so also lay believers alike to mobilize their devout communities on political lines. And, democracy in the name of guaranteeing “freedom of religion” is exacerbating the role of religion in political mobilization.

Based on the present trends of vicious politics, the probability of yet another disintegration of modern India is a distinct prospect.

Historically viewed, such a prospect of drawing and redrawing of boundaries of nations is a lesson of mankind.

“Great People led by Great Leaders with a vision can only make a Great Nation; Great People led by either “Good or Weak Leaders’ cannot make a Great Nation.” (Anonymous).

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