In the short run the Haridwar type exercise may, or even may not, bring some political dividends, yet in the long run it may prove costly, observes Soroor Ahmed
Silence is often mysterious and deceptive. Sometimes it means approval, but this is not always the case. For example, in cricket the umpire, on a number of occasions, ignores the appeal by bowlers and fielders by remaining silent – thus here it amounts to disapproval. At times silence speaks louder than any jarring noise.
But the silence in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) camp after the call for genocide of Muslims at Dharam Sansad (parliament of religion) in Haridwar in December last is being interpreted in different ways. Not only the political opponents of the ruling establishment, but even top retired army, navy and air force officers, academics and students, including those of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), and legal luminaries such as former Supreme Court judge R.F. Nariman are of the view that silence by those in power almost amounts to endorsement of what has been threatened in Haridwar.
Justice Nariman said that the hate speeches are criminal acts and not just unconstitutional as Vice President Venkaiah Naidu said several weeks after the utterances in Haridwar. Naidu is the former BJP chief and the only one from this camp to say something on the issue. Justice Nariman also questioned the silence of the ruling party on the issue of hate speeches as such.
No doubt, the Haridwar incident is not the first of its kind and is a link in the long chain of events. As this is not the first time that the Sangh Parivar is tight-lipped, most political analysts are of the view that the whole exercise is a part of its strategy.
Yet some other Sangh-watchers are of the view that a section from within the Hindutva Parivar has been taken aback by the way the speakers went overboard in giving the call. They are not actually maintaining a silence but have been compelled to keep a low profile. They may be a small minority, but they think that the Haridwar development may, in the long run, prove counter-productive.
As in organisation like RSS and its affiliates there is no scope for the voice of dissent; there is naturally silence everywhere.
But a dominant section, in one way or the other, gives consent to all such outbursts.
Ever since 1980s, when the issue of Ram Janambhoomi was taken up, the Sangh has been adopting such a strategy. Initially, some elements would utter something very controversial only to test the water. If things go really wrong, the so-called saner leaders would come out to dissociate the Parivar.
The blow hot and cold tactic would often come into work when the elections are around. So the plan is to cause polarisation and thus make political capital out of it.
There may be another angle to such venomous rhetoric: this is psychological. Whether such genocide is really possible or not in 21st century India, where democracy is still alive (may be it has got weakened), is debateable; but through such hate speeches attempts are being made to create fear psychosis in the mind of a large section of minorities, especially among the youths. The battle fought on the psychological plain is no less important. So even if the speakers in Dharam Sansad had gone too far ahead, they should not be criticised, as they too are serving a purpose. This is the justification for maintaining silence.
But the problem is that the hotheads are not changing with the changing time. Unlike in the past, their poisonous speeches are not remaining confined to their own supporters within India, but in this era of Information Technology, in a matter of minutes, they reach all the nooks and corners of the world. They create a bad image of the country in the comity of nations.
Besides, in the short run the Haridwar type exercise may, or even may not, bring some political dividends, yet in the long run it may prove costly.
Ironically, within a couple of weeks the BJP witnessed a large-scale desertion from within the party. Most of those leaders who have left the party come from the politically significant backward castes.