To prevent disfiguring of Hinduism, Islam by radical groups, effective policing, political clarity needed
In recent months, a call for ban on Halal meat, hijab in classes, presence of Muslim shopkeepers in and around temples' premises and high-pitched volume of Azan in mosques has occupied a disproportionate space in national narrative. So much so that cynical analysts and ill-informed business and opposition leaders of Karnataka felt alarmed for the state's image, its social fabric, communal harmony and future of industry. Telangana and Tamil Nadu took their concerns rather too seriously and wasted no time in advising business leaders to pack their bags and move to their states. This was bizarre.
Look at the nature of incidents that were blown out of proportion. School and college administrations simply wanted students to attend classes in prescribed uniform and avoid turning their classes into Myntra gallery. The government dithered for a while and thus allowed the situation to simmer, encouraging miscreants to indulge in violence. Police did not help the matter by reacting slowly and weakly. The chief minister's repeated call for calm was fine but by overdoing it, he played into the hands of conspirators and criminals. Recall, what Karnataka CM said about implementing High court order to ensure that mosques keep the decibel level of Azan to 2. "Yes, this is high court order but it is not being implemented by force. Everything has to be done by holding meetings with organisations- from police station to district level." Such pious intents do not work for communal peace. The law has to be enforced uniformly and culprits booked swiftly. One hopes the cases against those who were charged in all such cases will be pursued vigorously.
There was also nothing wrong in the appeal of Hindu fringe groups to ask fellow Hindus not to eat Halal meat, request Muslims to keep the volume of Azan limited to 20 decibels in conformity with the supreme court guidelines and appeal to temple managers to avoid Muslim shopkeepers from selling their goods. But instead of taking recourse to persuasion, approaching courts and police and creating favourable opinion among Hindus, they began threatening Mosques and preventing Hindus from buying Halal meat and mangoes from Muslim shopkeepers and ransacking their kiosks functioning for years in the vicinity of temples. This was not acceptable and needed to be dealt with an iron hand.
However, Muslims' sense of unease over the demands of Hindu agitators was exaggerated. They should have realised that non-vegetarian Hindus will continue to eat Halal meat because it is easily accessible, 95% Muslims girls who are serious about their career will attend classes without hijab, there was nothing religious about keeping volume of Azan to the loudest decibels in mosques etc. But instead of waiting to see how police, state and Hindu civil society dealt with the situation, Muslims mostly allowed their radical groups to take to streets.
Such tacit support does not help communal harmony. In fact, it pushes Popular Front of India and Campus Front of India to greater scrutiny of law and Hindu fringe groups to multiply. They need to condemn acts of known mischief makers and shun hesitation in showing accommodation for religious sensitivity of the Hindu community. Contrast it with the reaction of Hindus. You will find them crying hoarse in each case of communal incident about the death of secularism, rise of virulent form of Hinduism and Hindu majoritarian dominance. The role of law enforcement agencies thus become quite critical in this context.
(Amar Bhushan worked with the Research and Analysis Wing for 24 years after briefly serving in the BSF intelligence, State Special Branch and Intelligence Bureau. He served as the Special Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat before he retired in 2005.)
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