Monday, June 29, 2015

'Yoga Day' Or 'Test Of Patriotism' For Muslims In India?

By M H Ahssan 
Group Editor in Chief
International Yoga Day observed across the world on June 21, left a bitter taste in the mouth of many Indians after tweets from BJP general secretary, Ram Madhav a close confidante of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ­ questioned why vice-president Hamid Ansari was absent from the main event in Delhi. He also alleged that the Rajya Sabha TV completely blacked out the Yoga Day programme, where the PM was the chief participant.

When the veracity of Madhav's first tweet about Ansari's absenteeism was questioned on the social media, he tweeted saying that the vice-president did not attend the function as he was unwell. He later had to eat his words.
This after the vice-president's office clarified that no invitation was extended to Ansari, as should have been the case, from the ministry concerned and also added that he was in perfect health that day. RS TV ­ headed by senior journalist Swapan Dasgupta -made known that there indeed was live telecast of the event on the channel and that it had also aired a few other programmes earlier on the subject.

When the trickle on social media denouncing this controversy turned into a torrent, the government stepped in to apologise to the vice-president for the unfortunate development.

But by that time the deliberate misinformation mischief had already done the desired damage ­ that of painting Hamid Ansari, and by implication, the entire Muslim community as “not being completely Indian“.

Earlier in January the vicepresident had been targeted for his alleged demonstration of disrespect to the national flag during the Republic Day parade.That falsehood was exposed when his office issued a statement saying that only those in uniform salute the flag. The rule does not apply to civilians.

Somebody else buttressed the vice-president's statement by uploading a photograph of then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on social media not saluting the flag during a similar function.

Clearly, the Sangh Parivar is unhappy that a scholar like Ansari, steeped in the composite cultural values of India, is seated in the vice-president's chair, as opposed to someone like Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi who wants all beef eaters to go to Pakistan or some other Arab country! This is deeply saddening. Especially to think that after al most seven decades of independence, Muslims in India are still forced to prove their loyalty to their motherland. Their patriotism is still frequently questioned and looked at through the Saffron prism of the Sangh Parivar.

In March this year, Ansari, in his keynote address at the annual International Studies Convention organised by the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University asked, “Since religious precepts having a societal impact are being used in politics by state and sub-state actors for the formulation or ad vocacy of state policies, what is the nature of these policies? Do they impinge on or violate constitutional, bilateral or multilateral commitments of the state?“ 

Providing answers himself the vice-president later said, “States and sub-state actors professing a religion-based ideology do tend to read it with varying intensity in both domestic and external policy perceptions and practices. Such projections are increasingly at variance with the accepted norms of international conduct. Also such policies are viewed as a source of tension...They introduce atavistic elements of varying intensity in the political discourse, sow seeds of hostility and impede a cooperative approach `to practice tolerance and live together in peace.'... Thus, it is a challenge to all those who live in, and want to continue living in, secular societies.“

The vice-president stressed how India, a deeply multi-religious society, does not and must not, give official status to any religion or accept its hegemonic position. He said this in the backdrop of India being home to 4,635 communities and highlighted how the pluralist structures in India that have stood the test of time for over six decades need “constant nurturing“.

But the irony here is that the man who has always insisted on Indians remaining wedded to the age-old concept of pluralism, is himself under attack. Is that because he dared to articulate the aspirations of a large section of the Indian society. Or is it only because he follows a faith that is different from those in power today?

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