On 15th September 2020, the total number of Coronavirus infections in India exceeded 5 million and the death toll crossed 82,000. India is the second most Coronavirus infected country in the world after the United States. Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had vouched to defeat the Coronavirus within 21 days seems to be clueless. The strictest lockdown in the world imposed on India arrested the growth of the economy with the GDP shrinking by 28.9% in the April-June quarter and pushing more than 18.9 million salaried persons into the abyss of joblessness, according to the data released by the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE) on August 19. Those who lost their livelihood in the informal sector are in crores. Still the hate virus travelled in India at an unimaginable speed.
Many are the examples to prove that in India the hate virus travels faster than the Coronavirus. The latest in the series was the disgusting tweet by Nageswara Rao, the former interim head of the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) welcoming the death of social activist, Swami Agnivesh. “Good Riddance Swami Agnivesh. You were an anti-Hindu donning saffron clothes. You did enormous damage to Hinduism. I am ashamed that you were born as a Telugu Brahmin. My grievance against Yamaraj is why did he wait this long!” he said. Many responsible citizens and organizations condemned the repulsive tweet of Nageswara Rao. The Indian Police Foundation (IPF) said Rao “desecrated” the police uniform and “embarrassed” the government. “Tweeting such hate messages by a retired officer posing as an IPS officer – he has desecrated the police uniform which he wore and embarrassed the government. He demoralises the entire police force in the country, especially the young officers.” IPF tweeted.
Despite the condemnation from various quarters Nageswara Rao continued justifying his stand. As in the past, the authorities in the government kept mum. It is futile to expect any action from a government that did not act against its own ministers who indulged in hate speech against the minority communities.
The Supreme Court on 15th September put a break on another nefarious attempt to vilify the Muslim community through a TV show, ‘UPSC Jihad’ or ‘Naukarshahi Jihad’ by Suresh Chavhanke of Sudrashan News T V Channel. The controversial programme is part of a series called ‘ Bindas Bol’, hosted by the channels’ Editor-in-Chief Suresh Chavhanke. Through this show a wild accusation is made that the Muslims are infiltrating into the Civil Service.
While staying the show, a bench of the Supreme Court consisting of D.Y. Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and K.M. Joseph observed, “At this stage, prima facie, it appears to the court that the object, intent and purpose of the programme is to vilify the Muslim community with an insidious attempt to portray them as part of a conspiracy to infiltrate the civil services.” The court also added, “Edifice of a stable democratic society and observance of constitutional rights and duties is based on coexistence of communities. Any attempt to vilify a community must be viewed with disfavour,” the bench ordered. The judges termed the show “insidious” and “rabid” and one which casts aspersions on the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC) without any factual basis.
The TV show ‘Naukarshahi Jihad’ has maliciously distorted the facts. The show says that the age limit for appearing for the exam for the Hindus is 32 and for the Muslims 35 and 6 attempts for the Hindus and 9 attempts for the Muslims. The truth is that the age limit for the general category is 32 and for the OBC, including the Muslims is 35. The 35 year age limit applies to all backward castes and not the Muslims alone. In the same way the number of attempts for the general category is 6 and for the Other Backward Castes it is 9. The notification of UPSC doesn’t mention anything about the religion of the candidates. Categorization on the basis of religion is a notorious invention by the Sudarshan News Channel.
Another claim is that coaching centres are set up in the Muslim Universities to favour the Muslim candidates. Chavhanke claims that the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set up five coaching centres for UPSC. He says, “Out of these, four of them were set up in Muslim universities,” The fact is that these coaching centres are set for providing free coaching to the candidates belonging to “minorities, SCs, STs and women (of all communities) for Civil Services (Preliminary-cum-Main).” These centres are not providing coaching exclusively to the Muslims.
What is the truth regarding representation of the Muslims in the Civil Service? By quoting from a recent report published in The Indian Express a group of retired civil servants have pointed out in their letter dated on September 1, to the government that Muslims make up only 3.46 per cent of the country’s 8,417 IAS and IPS officers. Of 292 Muslim officers, 160 are among the 5,862 who had been selected through the Civil Services examinations conducted by the UPSC, while the remaining 132 are among 2,555 who were promoted to the IAS or IPS from the state civil services on the basis of seniority and performance, which is also assessed by the UPSC. Muslims constitute 14.2% of the Indian population. In fact, their share in the Civil Service is much less than their share in the population.
The reasons given by the retired civil servants for banning the show are very pertinent. First of all, it will generate hatred towards the largest minority community in the country, viz. Muslims, without having any basis in fact. Secondly, it tarnishes the impeccable reputation of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), the premier organisation for civil service recruitment, by claiming that it is biased in its recruitment processes. Thirdly, it will spread a false belief about a disproportionate increase in the number of Muslims being selected for government services, especially for the IAS and IPS. Fourthly, it will malign the reputation of Jamia Millia Islamia, which has recently been rated as the top central university in India. Finally, the use of terms like “UPSC jihad” and “Civil Services jihad” are an attempt to divide the civil administration of the country along religious lines and undermines the excellent contributions made by administrators across the board to the development of India.
Despite the widespread opposition to the show, including a letter written by a group of retired Civil Servants to the Prime Minister, Home Minister and other concerned ministries and departments, the government granted permission on 9th September and four episodes of the show were aired before the Supreme Court stopped it. It clearly shows that the BJP government at the Centre is hand in glove with the Sudarshan News TV Chanel in spreading hate against the Muslim community.
At this juncture it is essential to analyse why hatred against particular communities is being spread. One obvious reason is to divert the attention of the people from the failures of the government on the governance front. They include the inability of the government in tackling the spread of Covid 19 and the sinking of the economy resulting in huge loss of jobs and livelihood, and preventing the intrusion of the Chinese troops on the Indo-China border. The impending assembly election in Bihar and by-elections in Madhya Pradesh also require an agenda to polarize the voters on the basis of religion in the absence of any achievement from the part of the ruling parties to project before the people. The BJP has already tasted the success of making the Muslim community a scapegoat in the previous elections. Why not repeat it?
More than the obvious reasons, there could be an ideological reason for vilifying the minorities. Some organizations have been manufacturing hate and revenge and marketing them through various outlets for many decades after the independence of India. The political parties that ruled India either connived at the effort of these organizations or failed to gauge the far reaching implications and influence of their agenda.
The NGOs and the social welfare organizations while focusing on the economic and educational uplift of the poor failed to assess the impact of the hate mongering organizations on the poor. These organizations could capture the minds and brains of the poor while the NGOs and welfare organizations continued their works of charity.
The Christian Churches in India, including the Catholic Church, failed to observe and analyse how the students studying in their educational institutes are being brainwashed with an exclusive, divisive and hate ideology.
What could be the solution? The solution is the Constitution of India that has been neglected for decades by the so called secular political parties, the social welfare and charitable organizations and the Catholic Church in India. Although it is too late, still there is hope, if all people and organizations that believe in the pluralistic heritage of India come together and educate the people of India about the richness and beauty of the Indian Constitution, especially the values enshrined in the preamble. While struggling to promote the constitutional values let them also remember with hope the words of Abraham Lincoln. “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
(Published on 21 st September 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 39)