Local Issues Hold Key to Assembly Elections

‘We Will Choose Bengal’s Didi Over Muslim Owaisi’

Maulana Shahidul Qadri, 45, from Dhankheti, Metiaburj in Kolkata, says local issues hold key to assembly elections and therefore he will prefer Trinamool candidate than a divisive BJP or AIMIM

At a time when many people around the country have given in to the politics of division and polarity, people in Bengal are still standing united, strongly. We Bengalis form an opinion after a lot of deliberation and in-depth understanding and analysis of a matter, and thus one cannot divide us so easily.

As a Maulana and also as an Imam of the masjid at Dhankheti (Metiaburj), I tell people not to fall prey to the politics of hate; firqakaparasti wali baton me mat aaiye. We also tell people through editorials in various newspapers that we should not forget local issues while state elections are underway.

I wonder why BJP makes every election, right down to even the civic body elections, about national issues. Wasn’t our election system created and upgraded so that issues at every level could find adequate voice and be solved subsequently?

BJP might try bringing in the big guns for the elections, but Mamata Banerjee will once again become the CM. We have chosen to support Didi even over a Muslim candidate, AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi. It is not about Hindu-Muslim leaders, but rather on who as a leader has an understanding of local issues.

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The BJP-TMC face-off means everyday there’s some new statement from either side, but the electorate is noticing everything. The pandemic has shown us how important it is to have robust local leadership and we will keep focussing on that.

Bengal was a more peaceful place earlier, but now you hear news of BJP-TMC or BJP-Left clashes. I condemn incidents like attacks on JP Nadda; violence shouldn’t have any place in a democracy. We are Bengalis and Indians too, apart from being Hindus and Muslims.

Sometimes I wonder if like Assam, madarsa education will be banned in West Bengal as well! How will we then understand the basics of the faith we practise? There are many other ways in which the Muslim identity and the country’s Constitution and the institutions are being chipped away by the BJP but we have faith in both Mamata Didi and Allah.

NRC-CAA, Shaheen Bagh, illegal Bangladeshi immigrant, purportedly for whom the bill was brought in… was a burning issue just an year ago, do you hear as much of it during Bengal elections? Why? We can see through everything. The Prime Minister is not the leader of a party alone and not only of a particular party or community. He must take the whole country together and walk.

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The first term of this government was all about sowing seeds of mistrust between communities that had been mostly living peacefully for so long. The second term was all about interpreting law in such a way that that hatred was normalised. Even though we respect the Ram Janmbhoomi verdict, it would have been nice if the bhoomi-poojan had been a calmer affair.

Triple talaq, Delhi riots, NRC and now the love jihad (which the Supreme Court has said doesn’t hold true because relationship between two consenting adults is their choice), I wonder when will all this stop and when will we begin focussing on issues that really matter for us as a country?

No leader is perfect, and Mamata Banerjee gets angered easily, but we feel ke unka dil saf hai aur hausla buland. She has our interests at heart. We hope in the coming years she will mature into a calmer leader and learn to strategize better, Bengal and the country can truly benefit from that.

Gujarat Readying To Bring Law Against ‘Love Jihad’: CM

Ahead of Gujarat municipal elections, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani while addressing a rally in Vadodra on Sunday said preparations have been made for a law against “love jihad”.

“Preparations have been made for a stringent law against ‘love jihad’. We will bring a Bill on this issue in the upcoming Assembly session. The manner in which girls are being lured, will not go on for long,” Rupani said.
The Gujarat government will implement the Love Jihad Act soon, he added.

The CM’s comments came during a campaign on Sunday in the Tarsali area for the Vadodara Municipal Corporation.

Soon after the rally, the Chief Minister collapsed on stage and was rushed to a hospital. His health is now stable.

Voting for the municipal elections in Gujarat is slated to be held on February 21 while counting and announcement of results will take place on February 23.

Uttar Pradesh has already implemented a law against “love jihad”. (ANI)

Love Jihad Lab: Isloate, Terrorise, Ghettoise Muslims

Love jihad was always a fringe phenomenon for hardline Hindutva. It was in the shadows. Since 2014, it has become mainstream, like mob-lynching. And in the current scenario, amazingly, it is becoming law.

The love jihad law, or the politics behind the law, is yet again brazenly transparent. The central theme and the hyperbolic pitch are to corner, isolate, ghettoise and terrorise the Muslim community, yet again, polarize the bitter ground reality across the caste system in the Hindi heartland and the cowbell derived from the basic principles of dominant Hindutva. It is also to divert public attention from basic issues on the ground: mass unemployment, economic collapse across the organized and unorganized sectors, the massive farmers’ struggle at the various borders of the national capital, and that there is no clear guarantee when the vaccine against the deadly virus will reach India effectively, even while it is being administered in millions across the UK and USA.

Besides, there is another favorite diversionary tactic of the BJP, which also consolidates its fringe and mainstream support base: First, it was the Ram Janmabhoomi temple complex in Ajodhya. Now, it is the mythical new Parliament complex of ‘New India’: you can call it the mythical Hindu rashtra, a work in progress under the patron saints positioned strategically in the RSS headquarters in Nagpur.

Despite the love jihad law being pushed in some BJP-ruled states, the laboratory is yet again Uttar Pradesh, which has brought in BJP overwhelming at the hustings with a radical Hindutva icon who celebrates authoritarian actions as a virtue, at the helm. UP is also the state which provides the largest number of Members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha polls.

ALSO READ: ‘After Love Jihad, BJP Will Rake Up Uniform Code’

Of late, it has moved away from the ‘social engineering’ of the post-Mandal wave, with the rise of the OBCs and the minorities as a consolidated vote bank, and has decisively turned towards the heady concoction of united Hindutva. The repeated victory of Narendra Modi from a holy place like Varanasi, revered by Hindus across India, is more than symbolic.

Indeed, the caste polarization of the post-Mandal era, in UP, for instance, where Dalits would align with the Savarnas and the upper castes, but refuse to have alliances with the powerful section of the OBCs, like the Yadavs, is all but over. Landed Yadavs, also politically powerful, were always seen as oppressors in UP by the Dalits, even while Brahmins chose to align with the power apparatus, from the Congress, to BSP, to BJP.

Now, with a Thakur calling the shots, and calling it loud and clear across the layers of the power structure, a section of the Brahmins, deprived of power, seems to be in a dilemma. So are the others in the other backward castes.

In that sense, it is quite possible, that the Hindutva agenda is yet again working on its dream sequence by invoking the sectarian and vicious politics of love jihad. The dream sequence rests on the principle that all Hindus, across the caste spectrum, or most of them, would unite under the dominant and polarizing umbrella of Hindutva, whereas the ‘internal enemy number one’, as traditional RSS documents would tell us, should be totally isolated.

Thereby, it serves two purposes: one, the huge population of Muslims cannot forge an alliance with other secular groups among the Hindu communities, and thereby constitute a formidable electoral base. And, second, by uniting most Hindu communities under one umbrella, the so-called ‘internal enemy number one’ and its vote base is rendered vulnerable, almost ineffective.

In other words, this is but the first step towards the consolidation of a strategic Hindu rashtra, very much like using Adivasis against the minorities to polarize and consolidate in states lie Gujarat and Jharkhand, and thereby compel the Adivasis, who are outside the caste system of Hinduism, to join the Hindu varna vyavastha, with all its social, cultural and hegemonic trappings.

This new brand of ‘social engineering’ was first experimented by the BJP in Western UP before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. And what was the heady and hallucinatory slogan used to achieve this successful polarization: yes, love jihad.

The fertile and prosperous green revolution belt of Western UP with its flowing mustard flowers, canal systems, sprawling sugar cane farms, sugar mills, and flourishing mandis, as in Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar and Meerut, has always been a laid back zone of communal harmony and peace, with landed farmers across the kaleidoscope of religion prospering in the region. The landless Dalits or the poor Muslims and extremely backward castes were surely not so rich, but they were not starving either, or migrating en masse, as from Eastern UP or parts of Bihar.

ALSO READ: ‘Love Jihad Law Kills Beti Bachao Spirit’

Indeed, Dalits even own land in rural areas near Saharanpur, and the emergence of the confident mass of educated, young, modern and confident Dalits in the form of the Bhim Army, led by Chandraskhekar Azad, is a clear pointer about the changing political and social dynamics in Western UP. 

The BJP never really had any base in this region, barring among the traders and shopkeepers, which was politically under the shadow of the late Chaudhury Charan Singh, and his sons, who were the leaders of the dominant Jat community, almost always in alliance with Muslim farmers and other communities. There were no communal fissures, and no animosity against the Muslims, even while sections of Dalits chose to vote for Mayawati’s BSP. This was compulsively and effectively shattered by the violent politics of love jihad by the BJP and its rabble rousers in Western UP in 2014.

Indeed, it was fake, mostly based on rumours, with no evidence on the ground. Muslim boys were not running away with Hindu girls. It was all stage-managed propaganda, propagated by mouth and social media like whatsapp, with fake identities and fake stories, backed by huge Mahapanchayats of the BJP where the Muslims were frontally attacked. The laid-back green expanse had suddenly turned bitter and vicious, and it was yet again hate politics which became the dominant narrative in this peaceful zone.

A lot of violence, bloodshed and dead bodies later, around 60,000-plus Muslims were displaced from their traditional habitats. They took shelter in refugee camps, in collective phobia. Many of them just could not understand what hit them. Later, journalists and fact-finding teams, including women’s groups, also found scores of Muslim women raped. It was terrible and heart-breaking.

Post-2014, the wounds seem to be healing, and the polarization has not sustained. Fake news has dismantled again and again. The politics of hate and violence, camouflaged under the propaganda of love jihad, seems to have subsided. The lost era of peaceful coexistence and harmony seemed to be gradually returning. And love jihad seems as much a figment of imagination, as the ‘acche din’ promised by Modi before 2014.

The united kisan movement in Western UP, post lockdown, has also played a major role in bridging the social fissures. The movement is growing stronger against the three central farm bills, and most factions of the Bharatiya Kisan Union has united in the struggle. Love jihad is not working here on the ground.

Indeed, in the three recent cases in UP, reportedly triggered by Bajrang Dal vigilantes, with the administration predictably following a set pattern, the love jihad propaganda has fallen flat. In contrast, love seems to have won over hate again, despite the angst, the suffering, and the violence, psychological and physical. Indeed, even parents have stood up for the idea of love, and have debunked the claim of love jihad.

Surely, India, and its cowbelt power apparatus, might find it a lucrative enterprise to float such divisive and discriminatory concepts, once seen in Europe when the Nazis came in with Jews targeted in all walks of life. However, the younger generations are not going to buy it anymore. Hopefully so.

Surely, they would want love, and an eternally happy life in togetherness. And they must get it. That will be a true victory of the purity and endurance of love, over the politics of hate.

The Worsening Situation Amid Covid-19

‘After Love Jihad, BJP Will Rake Up Uniform Civil Code’

Fawaz Aftab, 21, a Law student from Delhi, says BJP leaders should focus on the worsening situation amid Covid-19, instead of targeting Muslims. Aftab prays for India to remain a pluralistic society

If you think ‘Love Jihad’ is the end of it – by which I mean the state meddling into citizens’ private affairs – it will not be. It is just the beginning. This year people have already seen so much hardships due to the pandemic yet our authorities are more focussed on issues related to a particular community, Muslims.

First, there was no proper dialogue before imposition of CAA- NRC, then northeast Delhi faced communal violence, later the communalisation of Covid-19 where the whole Tableegi Jamat issue was tarred, then the Ram Janma Bhoomi shilanyas (which could have been handled a little more gracefully), and now the Love Jihad law. A person who follows news in depth knows what will be their next stop: Uniform Civil Code.

Many people feel that now inter-faith relationships and marriages will raise untoward suspicion because of the new law. However, as a law student I feel that people shouldn’t give in to fear easily. The Special Marriage Act (1954) is still valid and people can still go for inter-faith marriages. The law has been brought in to curb forced conversions, be they done by a person of any religion. However, when the UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath or other BJP leaders and even the media talk about it, they use the term ‘Love Jihad’ as if it is meant to put a complete stop to inter-faith relationships.

ALSO READ: ‘Love Jihad Kills Beti Bachao Spirit’

It is perhaps easier to distract people from mainstream issues by bringing issues of lesser importance to the surface. I wish the government initiated dialogues on topics it thinks deserve importance before bringing a law for it. And I also wish that the people didn’t react emotionally to any news that the media presents, and did some groundwork on their own.

Aftab would want India to remain a pluralistic society

One of the main problems I have with this law is the point that anyone wanting to convert into another religion would have to give it in writing to the District Magistrate at least two months in advance. I feel it is a direct violation of fundamental rights under Article 21. Love, marriage and practicing of one’s faith are personal matters and the government shouldn’t get involved in it I feel, at least in the beginning. If the marriages run into problems, then the government can take cognizance of the matter.

The term ‘ Love Jihad’ first started coming to light around 2009-10, but the UPA government took it for what it was, an exception. I feel the current government takes offence even where none is intended. Prior to 2014, Hindus and Muslims and people of all other faiths mostly identified as Indians first, but now I can see traces of hatred and an unwillingness to know about and understand different faiths.

ALSO READ: ‘When Will The Hounding Of Muslims Stop?’

I hope we still continue to hold on tightly to the idea of a pluralistic India and no matter how much the media or our politicians try to divide us, we don’t give in to hatred; we don’t do any such thing that allows hatred to become mainstream. In the long run we can only control how we behave and I on my part will keep contributing my love and understanding to my fellow countrymen and women.