In the political lexicon, “jungle raj” is generally used for Bihar. But there is jungle raj in a state or country only when some people belonging to the ruling class hijack the Constitution, take the law into their own hands and trample democracy. This is a kind of psychological war, as a result of which some people start fearing their own shadow, their neighbours, friends and even the leaders they elect.
Look at some recent incidents that create fear among the people. In January, a group of Gauraksha Samiti members raided the general compartment of a train in Harda District of MP, and searched — and assaulted — a Muslim couple for “beef”. On January 18, a Dalit research scholar in Hyderabad, Rohith Vemula, committed suicide, allegedly because of discrimination. In February, Sindhu Sooryakumar, chief coordinating editor of Asianet News TV, moderated a discussion on whether Mahishasur Jayanti could be considered an act of treason. She was inundated with threats. Also in February, speakers at an event in Agra, including Union Minister Ram Shankar Katheria and Fatehpur Sikri BJP MP Babulal, warned Muslims about a “final battle” and asked Hindus to “corner Muslims and destroy the demons”.
To perpetrate the politics of fear, patriotism has been replaced with the word “nationalism” to help the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre declare that those involved in “anti-national activities” would be brought to book. Home Minister Rajnath Singh said “the government would not tolerate any anti-national activities in the country”. But who will decide?
This is happening despite the fact that India is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1948. Besides the Preamble, as many as 16 articles of our Constitution guarantee people’s fundamental human rights. The UDHR was born out of the famous “four freedoms” envisaged by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941. These include the freedoms of speech and religion, and from want and fear.
Clearly the recent incidents from JNU to Jadavpur University, and the police action that followed, sent shivers down the spine of the people. Kanhaiya Kumar, the JNU students’ union chief, was booked for sedition. He and others were bashed up in court premises by “activists” as well as a BJP MLA while the police looked the other way.
But this is not the first incident marking the beginning of the well-organised politics of fear. It all began in Bihar during the Lok Sabha election campaign, with BJP leader Giriraj Singh declaring that those who were trying to stop Narendra Modi from becoming PM have their place in Pakistan. People had thought that Modi would pull him up but instead Singh was given a ministerial post.
To create further fear among a section of people, a top leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Pravin Togadia, declared that Muslims should be barred from purchasing houses in Hindu-dominated localities, and if that didn’t happen, their houses should be captured. Then, during the Bihar assembly polls, the speeches by leaders, particularly by the PM, were punctuated with provocative and divisive words. Based on data from the Election Commission, it was found that 13 FIRs against star campaigners of different political parties for “hate speech” had been registered, a first for elections in Bihar.
In fact, in the past 18 months, there has been nationwide sociopolitical turmoil. Apart from debates and protests by intellectuals over “growing intolerance”, phrases like “ghar wapsi”, “beef-eaters” and “gau” created fear. Senior Bihar BJP leader Sushil Modi, respected for his sober and secular attitude, had tweeted during the election: “For votes, Lalu can even eat beef”.
Modi, on the other hand, had warned Dalits and OBCs of the “conspiracy” to take away reservations and give them to minorities. Party chief Amit Shah stooped even lower when he said if the BJP lost Bihar, firecrackers would go off in Pakistan. The repeated use of the words “Pakistan” and “beef” was clearly aimed at creating fear among the people, both Hindus and Muslims. Now “nationalism” has been added to this list.