Varun Gandhi has today become a symbol of the disease, that has stealthily crept into several sections of Indian society : Politics which is hateful, divisive and sectarian ! Whilst he will definitely attain the “halo” of martyrdom, and become an icon for the right-wing elements, it is also important for civil society across the board to do all it can to contain the deadly poison that continues to permeate several sections of our society. Lalu Prasad with his revengeful response and several other political parties are also guilty of this brand of polities. However, the BJP and its cronies of the Sangh Parivar must take full responsibility for this vicious agenda that divides people across the board. Ever since its inception, they have never abandoned their core doctrine of treating all minorities as “alien”. This is borne by their constant posturings, their meticulous propaganda, their violent attacks on minorities and the way they rake up issues in order to defocus from the grim realities which the country faces.
This divisive campaign over the years has indeed done well for them in terms of “political gains”, be it in Gujarat, Orissa, Karnataka or elsewhere. For want of any other substantial agenda, their slogan remains the very same…..”Muslims are Terrorists”, “Christians are Converters”. Very mischievously, in a subsection entitled “Religious Conversions”, they have once again raised, in their Election Manifesto, their bogey against the Christians. Instead of defending the rights of dalits to embrace Buddhism, or for an Adivasi to embrace Hinduism or any other citizen to embrace the religion of their ‘choice’…. (as guaranteed by the Constitution of India and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), they very conveniently put the onus only on the Christians and call for a “dialogue”, and ofcourse, some Christian leaders will very naively fall into their well set trap !
The draconian Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act 2003 (which finally became Law on April 1st 2008, full five years after it was promulgated) was recently challenged in the Gujarat High Court by the Gujarat United Christian Forum for Human Rights and other co-Petitioners. In a major step forward, the Gujarat High Court has sent a notice to the Government of Gujarat on this matter and the judgment is now eagerly awaited by the Petitioners.
In Karnataka, after bashing up the Christians, Chief Minister Yeddyurappa has promised an anti-Conversion law. In Orissa, after partnering the BJP for several years and presiding over the death of several Christians and the destruction of their property, Naveen Patnaik, in a totally opportunistic move, now seeks to distance himself from the misdoings of the BJP instead of acknowledging his responsibility as the Chief Minister.
Civil Society therefore has to come out in large numbers to ensure that the communal politics of hate, divisiveness and sectarianism is quelled once and for all. The ballot box has to be our decisive answer to stop the juggernaut from destroying what is left of the harmony, the diversity and the pluralism of our country.
* Fr. Cedric Prakash sj is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.