Nations are narrations”, goes the saying. These narrations are transmitted across people in the form of stories that culminate into a common national narrative. The BJP weaves many stories for its followers to keep their hearts burning with fanaticism and to generate anti-Muslim sentiments. While most of these stories are cooked up, some are actually built on true events. For instance, the story of the Somnath temple.
Story of the Somnath temple
The temple is located in Gujrat-hometown of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Muslim rulers in the past destroyed it several times. The attack on the temple by Mahmud of Ghazni is perhaps the most prominent.
During one of his raids on India, Mahmud came across the venerated temple. “There a hundred thousand pilgrims were wont to assemble, a thousand Brahmans served the temple and guarded its treasures, and hundreds of dancers and singers played before its gates.” The temple was sacked and its treasures confiscated.
Diverse opinions of historians
However, historians have since disputed the actual damage caused to the temple. Some argue that the damage was minimal. Nonetheless, Mahmud was not the only Muslim ruler to have attacked the temple. Later Muslim rulers too destroyed the Somnath temple during their reign, prompting reconstruction several times.
The present structure was completed in 1951. From the very outset, BJP has played on the destruction of the temple to build a religious narrative that espouses deep anti-Muslim sentiments.
BJP tortures Muslims for political advancement
The history of the temple helps India’s ruling party stir religious emotions and nationalistic fervor, and enables it to mobilize fanatical Hindus to act against Muslims in their country. Ironic as it may sound that present day Muslims are being demonized for events that occurred centuries ago and in which they played no part, yet, for BJP such a narrative is important to advance Hindutva ideology embracing the ideal of Hindus’ racial superiority.
In this regard, fear and hatred of Muslims is perhaps deemed essential to forge unity and offset the debilitating effects of social divisions that are inherent in a society riddled with caste system; a factor that aided Muslim conquests of the sub-continent in the first place.
Failure to address the root cause
The caste-system is a widely accepted feature of Indian society. It is too entrenched in the social fabric and very unlikely to be disturbed by mere anti-Muslim propaganda. The reason is plain and simple. That BJP’s propaganda does not address the root cause i.e. underlying inequality and maltreatment of lower-caste Hindus.
Dalits, for example, have been condemned to a life of utter misery and humiliation. Even higher education and hard work are not enough to lift them up on the ladder of social inequality and earn them the respect of upper-caste Hindus. In India, an uneducated Brahman will always be considered superior to a highly educated Dalit, and for a Dalit to acquire education in a country where he is deemed fit for only cleaning toilets will be nothing short of a miracle. Precisely why social strife in India will persist with or without Muslims.
I'm sure we'll come out of this economic instability swiftly. Under PM Modi's leadership, the nation's industry will run at full throttle and push the economy back to where it was.
— BJP (@BJP4India) June 5, 2020
Hate politics will create further divide
In fact, BJP’s assaults on Muslims are only exacerbating social disintegration in India. And the problem will aggravate further due to the economic downturn triggered by lockdowns, resulting in widespread unemployment that ravishes marginalized communities.
Therefore, trying to gain political mileage through hate-politics will not augur well for India. It has already unleashed a pestilence with potentially devastating consequences and far-reaching implications.
Imbibing and preaching radicalism
Radicals like the adherents of Hindutva are generally not given to rationality. They are too obsessed with their toxic ideas to contemplate the consequences of their actions. In their narrow worldview, there is hardly any room for moderation and tolerance. They will continue to learn and tell stories that help further their designs without realizing that such hatred stories will come back to haunt them. And from which they will find no escape.
Which is why such destructive storytellers must be kept in check at the earliest. Once, they release their poison into the society, damage control becomes very difficult. Ultimately, the society spirals into an abyss of hatred and bigotry, followed by social unrest that has destabilizing effects for the entire region.
Far-right Hindu nationalists such are setting a bad example by telling stories that demonize Muslims. Hindu extremists are being goaded by BJP to generate anti-Muslim sentiments and to exact revenge on Muslims for so-called aggression committed by Muslim conquerors centuries ago.
Biases have negative effects
In general, it is true that nations interpret and manipulate history in a way that suits their interests. While some events quickly recede into oblivion, there are others that are kept alive, or resurrected shall the need arise.
However, by keeping its story of Somnath alive, the BJP is charting a dangerous path and worsening civil strife in India. The effects of soaring communal tensions will be felt across the entire region.
Moneeb Ahmad Barlas is a part of the Central Superior Services (CSS) in Pakistan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of GVS.