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How war of words over ‘Hindu Pakistan’ remark proves religion is the opium of Indian politics

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    New Delhi, July 13: When "Vikas" (development) meets "Dharm" (religion), this is what they talk about...

    Vikas: Mein hoon, Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas (I am, collective efforts, inclusive growth) (Borrowing one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popular punchlines.)

    communal harmony

    Dharm: Mandir yahin banega (The temple will be constructed here) (As promised by several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, including Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, on building the Ram temple in Ayodhya.)

    The fierce, confident introduction by Dharm was enough for Vikas to shut his mouth and took a retreat to the backstage, hoping that someone someday will bring him back from political oblivion.

    Meanwhile, Dharm is running amok. From the BJP to the Congress everyone wants a piece of religion--mostly incessant bashing of Muslims (both verbally and physically as numerous lynching cases indicate) and safeguarding the age-old tradition and culture of Hindus who in spite of being majority are feeling insecure in their own rashtra (country).

    While Vikas is sulking over Mumbai's potholes, hike in fuel prices, lack of jobs, lack of healthcare and education facilities and rise in farmer suicides to name a few pet peeves, Dharm knows why he is everyone's darling.

    Talk about farmer suicides, infant mortality rate, potholes, hunger, poverty, homelessness...every television news channel goes blank and political spokesperson "mute". It is actually yawn-inducing to talk about Vikas, but mention Dharm, politicians jump like kids to get their share of candies first.

    So when senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor warned people from bringing back the BJP to power once again in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to avoid turning India into "Hindu Pakistan" (a fear many politicians and scholars have previously expressed openly), the BJP raised hell.

    After all, how could a Congress leader talk about "Hindu" and "Pakistan" --the two controversial words over which the BJP has copyright-- in the same breath?

    Isn't it the BJP who rules over all Hindus and protects all Hindus from Pakistan and Muslims every day? In Sangh Parivar's court of justice, Tharoor has clearly committed blasphemy trying to instill fear of Pakistan and Muslims among the pious and cow-loving Hindus.

    Probably in a fit of rage, the Congress Lok Sabha member of Parliament (MP) had his own "exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies" moment, where again facts and truth were the biggest casualties.

    The more the Congress tries to warn voters about religious bigotry and divisive politics of the BJP, the more the grand old party will help the saffron party to push its "Hindu rath" (the Hindu chariot) further.

    After Tharoor's controversial "Hindu Pakistan" remark in his constituency, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, on Wednesday, the BJP alleged that the Congress is trying to "communalise the political discourse" of the country and the party president Rahul Gandhi should apologise.

    A confused Congress, which of late has been trying hard to get itself rid of the "Muslim appeasement" tag, decided to take a safe route. The Congress neither defended Tharoor nor condemned him. The man at the centre of the controversy remained adamant and refused to apologise.

    The likes of BJP's Subramanian Swamy and Sambit Patra lambasted Tharoor and the Congress. While Swamy asked PM Modi to find out if Tharoor "needs medical help", Patra in his inimitable style pounced on the Gandhi family and demanded an apology from Rahul.

    The whole debate over "Hindu Pakistan" comment was not limited to the Congress and the BJP. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) too joined the war of words.

    "In my farewell speech (in the Rajya Sabha last year) that was the appeal I made to Mr Modi, saying please, do not convert India into Hindu Pakistan. This is on record," said CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury to lend support to Tharoor.

    Similarly, Ashutosh of the AAP wrote a lengthy opinion piece--Tharoor is right in his comments on Hindu Pakistan--to stand in solidarity with the Congress MP.

    Noted Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen, who has been living in exile in India, gave a new spin to Tharoor's comment. Nasreen, known for raising her voice against the orthodox and misogynistic practices prevalent in Islam, stated that India is a "Hindu India".

    "India is not 'Hindu Pakistan'. India is 'Hindu India'. 'Hindu India' is better than 'Muslim India'. The best is 'secular India'. Here secular does not mean religious, it is rather non-religious," tweeted Nasreen.

    How many times have you seen politicians, scholars and authors jumping into the same debate with great enthusiasm if it raises issues like rape, starvation death, climate change and female infanticide? The answer is none.

    Talk about mandir (temple), Hindu, Muslim, Pakistan and Kashmir, a long queue can be seen outside television studios where leaders cutting across party lines patiently wait for their turn to speak.

    That is why Dharm is so playful and fun, and Vikas is so boring. Any takers for Vikas in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls?

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