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Friday, August 12, 2022

Karnataka: A state of exclusion

Janaki Nair writes: Divisive politics drowns out clamour against corruption, criminality in Karnataka

Written by Janaki Nair |
Updated: July 27, 2022 9:17:25 am
Janaki Nair writes: Karnataka, it seems, has now gone beyond the assertion that a Hindu can do no wrong to the conviction that a Muslim can do no right — even in representations.(Express/File)

The BJP in Karnataka is leaving no stone unturned in achieving the permanent abjection of Muslims in this once composite state. A determined march towards realising Hindu Rashtra in the shortest possible time, and delivering the South (more “legitimately” and respectably than in 2018) to the BJP in 2023 has begun. The Bajrang Dal, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, and Sri Rama Sene, despite minor quibbles with the ruling party, are joined by ordinary Kannadigas to enable this rapid political, social and economic disenfranchisement. An ever-lengthening list of accusations against Muslims finds a credulous and receptive audience – for alleged depredations in the past (building mosques on the site of temples), for plans for the future (the community’s devious demographic design) or for merely existing.

After months of attacks – via the threat of violence, actual violence, or through multiple court cases and government orders on hijab, halal, azaan, and Muslim commerce at Hindu jatras – comes the latest mode by which Muslim abjection is ensured. In February, Harsha Hindu, a member of the Bajrang Dal was murdered in Shivamogga. Initially, the police stated that the murder was a “localised crime stemming from long-standing communal rivalry” and cited his criminal record — five cases of assault and attempt to murder with communal overtones, including participation in a mob attack on Shivamogga’s Muslim traders in December 2020. But soon, the police — instead of investigating the murder — managed to find a larger Islamic conspiracy. Chief Minister B Bommai presented the family with a cheque of Rs 25 lakh from state funds. Similarly, in April, the death of a young man, Chandru, in a road rage case was given communal overtones by the political leadership, despite police assertions to the contrary.

Karnataka, it seems, has now gone beyond the assertion that a Hindu can do no wrong to the conviction that a Muslim can do no right — even in representations. The play — Jotegiruvana Chandira, or The Moon Will be With Us — loosely derived by Jayanth Kaikini from the Fiddler on the Roof, had been performed for the past one-and-a-half decades without incident. It became “unbearable” to a small group of Bajrang Dal activists of Sorab taluk, Shivamogga District on July 3. They terminated the performance because it portrayed Muslims in a good light. The police, who were at first unaware of the reasons for the disruption, nevertheless upheld it, even giving the Dal time to think up other equally illegal “reasons” for stopping the performance. That it portrayed an inter-faith alliance? Or that no play foregrounding Muslims can be performed in a Lingayat-owned hall? How does it matter since we have heard nothing since?

Even more surprising was the uncomplaining acquiescence of the audience to this abrupt end to their entertainment. For some time now, despite a small, spirited and vociferous push back by some Kannadigas, there has been widespread acceptance of, and even active agreement with, the stand of the Hindu Right. The “nuisance” posed by azaan, the unacceptability of the “cruelty” of halal, the unfairness of Muslim stalls at Hindu festivals, (or indeed of any kind of successful Muslim business, WIPRO exempted), and the necessary redressal of unfair “weightage” given to Jainism, Buddhism and Muslim rule in Karnataka textbooks appear now to be a vocalised common sense of large section of Hindus.

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Scrubbing public memory clean of Karnataka’s syncretic traditions, whether in practice (as is being attempted through claims to the paduka puja at Bababudangiri, or in ending “salam mangalarathi” in the name of Tipu at Kollur Mookambika) or in textbook representations, has been made easy.

Hindu claims to tolerance, a commitment to gender equality, and other noble virtues are also gathering force. In March, to buttress the righteousness of its decision on the hijab ban, the Karnataka High Court quoted at length B R Ambedkar’s lament about the deplorable fate of the veiled Muslim. Thus, patriarchy is made coterminous with one religion, while the majority shoves its own foundational inequalities behind Ambedkar’s shoulders.

The sustainable communalism of the Hindu Right drowns out the allegations of corruption and depredation involving leading political lights. We hear no more, for instance of “Sriki” or Srikrishna, the young mastermind behind the massive crypto-currency scam, after he was arrested and released on bail within days. Minister K S Eshwarappa has now been cleared of culpability for the suicide of one unpaid PWD contractor, despite his suicide note and contractors’ anger about the unbearable burden of the 40 per cent bribe allegedly demanded by the state’s ruling party. Daily denials are issued about the industrial-scale rigging of the examination to recruit 545 police sub-inspectors.

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Far better and more rewarding to keep the anti-Muslim pot boiling. Easier, too, to announce Karnataka’s triumphant entry into the Brave New Hindu Rashtra with government support (Rs 5,000) for pilgrimage to Kasi. The “secularism” that the government is quick to invoke in withdrawing Muslim privileges (hijab in classrooms, or haj subsidies) is a customised weapon to ensure the permanent abjection of Karnataka’s Muslims.

The writer taught history at JNU

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First published on: 27-07-2022 at 04:40:52 am
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