By Brinda Karat / NDTV
Today, October 5, there will be numerous events to declare the triumph of good over evil in Dussehra celebrations with the burning of the effigy of Ravana. Elsewhere, there will be elaborate preparations for the immersion of the clay images of Goddess Durga after celebrating her victory over the demon king Mahishasura. These festivities traditionally involve crores of Indians within and outside the boundaries of India. The beautifully-decorated puja pandals are visited by people across communities, just as the audiences at the performances of the Ram Leela are inclusive of people across communities. This is how it has been in the past.
But will it remain so? Will we soon have signboards outside the pandals that state “Hindus only”, much like the signs in British India that forbade the entry of Indians into many public places? If a pandal in Kolkata can actually portray the demon king killed by the Goddess in the form of Gandhi-ji, is the idea of “Hindus Only” signboards so outlandish? The Vishwa Hindu Parishad spokesperson Chandrachud Goswami, responsible for the abomination, was not shy or defensive. He said, “Gandhi does not deserve respect. We want to send a clear message that we want a Gandhi-mukt Bharata Varsh.”
India needs to ask itself some hard questions – in our own times, in our own society, is evil triumphing over the good? Perhaps not. The people of India, the working poor, the workers, the kisans, have historically, more often than not, chosen the path of acting for what is right, fighting back the forces that want to enslave us, to divide us, to perpetuate injustice. But today, it is not an ordinary fight. Every day brings new examples of why the question is relevant. Look at the recent developments over the “garba” celebrations.
The beating of Muslim men at or even around the vicinity of “garba pandals” by private armies of the Hindutva brigade are akin to lighting bonfires of the Constitution. The attacks constitute a level of crude religious profiling that is quite unprecedented. It is a shameful demonizing of a whole community as potential trouble-makers, as harassers of women, as ‘love jihadists’. In all these attacks, the police have admitted that there have been no complaints of harassment by any women attending the garba events. The charge against Muslim men as “luring women” is insulting to Hindu women, too, who must be considered brainless if they can be so easily “lured”.
Such attacks are taking place in centres in BJP-ruled Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Instead of arresting the attackers led by the Bajrang Dal and, in some cases, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the police have arrested the victims. Since there is no evidence of any crime against those arrested, the police have used Section 151, an open-ended clause, which gives police the right to arrest without any evidence or proof of crime committed but to “prevent the commission of cognizable offences”. It reads “(1) A police officer knowing of a design to commit any cognizable offence may arrest, without orders from a Magistrate and without a warrant, the person so designing, if it appears to such officer that the commission of the offence cannot be otherwise prevented. “The Hindutva brigade have made known their intention to use the present religious festivities to target Muslims, they are the people ‘so designing’.” But not a single one of them, not even those easily identifiable in the videos shown on national television, have been booked by the police. It is known that sections of the police force have been communalised. But the blatant bias in their actions in these cases is because of the public support to the Hindutva gangs by the governments of both Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.