New Delhi: The BJP's castigation of the non-Muslims who complain of intolerance comprises words like "manufactured paper rebellion", "fake dissent", Nehruvian, Leftist and the like. In the case of Muslims, however, the charge of being unpatriotic comes naturally to the saffron camp. While Aamir Khan has been accused of treachery for saying that his wife felt unsafe in India, Shah Rukh Khan was informed by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary that his "soul" was in Pakistan.
Although an actor with a saffron hue, Anupam Kher, did not mention Pakistan when he asked Aamir Khan "which country" his family wanted to "move out to", his may have been a rhetorical question. Kher's ideological soulmate, Yogi Adityanath, MP, gave a demographic twist to the episode by saying that if Aamir Khan and his family left India, there will be a reduction in the country's population.
The sly hint in this innuendo is that the departure of Muslims is welcome since they breed exponentially with their four wives in defiance of the family planning norm of "hum do, hamare do" (we two, our two). Prime Minister Narendra Modi's celebrated remark - hum panch, hamare pachis (we five - husband and four wives - and our 25) encapsulates this view.
Adityanath had described as a "dangerous trend" the recent census reports about an increase in Muslim population - an issue about which the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has expressed concern. Apart from these caustic digs, the standard argument of the saffron lobby against the protesters is that they were silent during, say, the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. A BJP spokesman also wanted to know whether Aamir Khan felt insecure during the riots and bomb blasts in Mumbai in 1992-93, the explosions in suburban trains in the city in 2006 and the jehadi attack on Mumbai in 2008.
The riposte to these sarcastic insinuations is that the state did not instigate these acts of violence except in 1984, when sections of Congressmen were said to have been involved. In contrast, the complaints about today's "intolerance" are either that the state is complicit or is indifferent. The complicity as well as intolerance are evident in the characterization of those who are not supporters of the ruling dispensation at the centre as "haramzade" or illegitimate children by a union minister, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti; the charge by another union minister, Gen. V.K. Singh (retd), that those talking of intolerance have received money from Pakistan; and the accusation by a Haryana minister, Anil Vij, that those talking of insecurity are doing so at Pakistan's behest.
The state's hand in spreading "despondency", as Aamir Khan has said, was also evident in Adityanath's ghar wapsi and love jehad campaigns and the claim of another MP, Sakshi Maharaj, that Gandhi's assassin, Nathuram Godse, was a patriot and that the madrasas or schools for Muslim children produced terrorists. Such examples can be multiplied to include the cold-blooded killing of rationalists and of Muslims suspected of eating beef or transporting cattle for the purpose of export. None of these acts is the handiwork of Islamic militants or Maoist insurgents, but of members of the so-called Hindu Right or fascistic groups of Hindus with ideological affinity to the BJP and the RSS-led Sangh parivar.
Admittedly, there have been attempts of late by those in the corridors of power to rein in such elements. Evidently, they have begun to understand the imperatives of governing a multi-cultural country. Harried BJP spokesmen also routinely distance themselves from the venomous comments of hotheads such as the description of Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and the widely respected nonagenarian Dilip Kumar as "snakes" by Maharashtra Minister Ramdas Kadam of the Shiv Sena. In recent weeks, there has been a marginal improvement in the situation with the "bhule-bhatke" (misled) Muslims, in RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's words, not being coerced to re-convert to Hinduism, and Hindu girls not being warned against being lured by Muslim young men into marriage via love jehad - of which Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Khan have been accused by the Hindu Mahasabha - a part of the Hindu Right - because they have Hindu wives.
But this calming down of the saffron fundamentalists is patently a temporary reprieve because their intense antipathy towards Muslims, the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and the concept of secularism ("sickular", according to them) continues to be expressed on the social media. They are bound to go on the rampage, as the Shiv Sena has been doing in recent weeks, the moment they feel that there is a hate object in sight, whether it is a Muslim film star or a Pakistani singer. In a way, the atmosphere of intolerance has been prevailing ever since the shrines of minorities began to be targeted for destruction and the celebrated painter, M.F. Husain, was hounded out of the country.
If it has gained in intensity, the reason is that the BJP's assumption of power has emboldened the Hindutva militants as never before while the government's response has been hesitant and not a firm crackdown as against Patidar leader Hardik Patel in Gujarat. Hence the prevailing uneasiness was noted by not only sections of the intelligentsia but also President Pranab Mukherjee and Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan.