They say “Bharat tere tukde honge” and instantly become rockstars of free speech. Their views are judged as “dissent” at best and as a “youthful indiscretion” at worst. Then, they hit the think-fest circuit big time, talking up a storm, revelling in the glare of TV media and the adulation of intellectuals.
Don’t you dare be “intolerant” or charge them with sedition. That would be against free speech. That is for them.
We say “Vande Mataram” and … Bang Bang Bang. Dead, cremated, matter closed in 24 hours.
One after the other, as if reading from a memo, they point out that tiranga rally on Republic Day happened to be “unauthorized.”
Will somebody point out to these luminaries that even if I shout “Vande Mataram,” nobody has a right to shoot me dead?
And by the way, it makes no difference to our fundamental rights as citizens of India if we happen to be in a “Muslim majority area.” The right not to be shot dead for mere speech, for merely raising a slogan, is inalienable.
Instead of speaking out for the fundamental right of a citizen not to be publicly executed for allegedly saying “Vande Mataram,” our elites have busied themselves with checking whether the official authorization documents for the rally were in order.
The issue here is not whether the rally was “authorized.” The real issue here is to address the mentality of a section of society that feels “authorized” to shoot a young boy dead simply because they didn’t like slogans that he or people around him may have shouted.
This victim blaming must stop. If you find the slogan “Vande Mataram” to be provocative, that’s your problem. Go cry about it on social media. Give an interview to The Wire. They are always looking for stories such as this. If all else fails, file a PIL with some honorable judge. They are always looking for causes such as this.
But, I should emphasize, your sense of anger over slogans such as “Bharat Mata ki jai” and “Vande Mataram” do not give you a right to pick up a gun and shoot somebody dead.
Instead of underlining the real issue, the Kasganj murder again brought into sharp focus two major problems with the way things are set up in our country.
The first is the inability to attack head on, the orthodox Islamist patriarchy that dominates our political culture. It could be a case of Muslim women wanting freedom from triple talaq or Hindus wanting to say Vande Mataram.
Yes, Hindus, as an integral part of their culture, tend to personify their objects of worship: from the fire to the earth. It is no surprise that millions of Hindus, even hundreds of millions see their nation as a deity in herself, personified as Bharat Mata.
However, the orthodox Islamic patriarchy, due to Islamic teachings against “idol worship” or “polytheism” (called “shirk“, considered one of the highest sins in Islam) has internalized the idea that violence and suppression against the practitioners of “idol worship” is somehow justified. And that the so called faithful have a right to carry out violence against non-believers, the so called “kuffar”.
These are the people who feel threatened by the seemingly idol worshipping Hindu venerating his sacred motherland with slogans of “Bharat Mata ki jai” or “Vande Mataram.”
The problem is that little has been done in our country to address this issue or to try and modernize the attitudes of the Islamist patriarchy. Neither the Constitution nor any other laws contain explicit protections for people targeted for being kafirs and engaging in pagan forms of worship that orthodox Islam finds highly disagreeable. Awareness programs to sensitise the Muslim community about the beliefs of other communities, efforts to foster in them a sense of respect and tolerance towards other forms of worship, are entirely non-existent.
The second is the inability of our newsrooms to correctly deal with Hindu assertion. Most headlines in major news outlets, which are always quick to highlight victimhood of Muslims (both real and imaginary) or even the caste of music maestros, simply did not know how to write about a Hindu boy murdered for saying Vande Mataram. Instead, they had to opt for blank sentences such as this.
The above is just one representative example, you can find a full compilation of many others over here.
There are many reasons for this bias, probably top among them being the heavy under-representation of strong pro-Hindu voices in the media. This is what leads to situations like this, where a spectacularly tone deaf journalist Mr. Qazi Faraz Ahmed, reporting for News18, writes thus:
There must be a special place in hell for those who report the murder of a 22 year old Hindu boy for allegedly saying Vande Mataram, as some kind of natural consequence of an unauthorized bike rally.
But Hindu youth are not having it any more. They are ready to throw off the shackles, to take to the streets and worship their motherland any way they like. And even if the orthodox Islamist patriarchy feels it is a sin to bow down to anyone but Allah, the Hindu youth today feels empowered to say “Bharat Mata ki jai” or “Vande Mataram.”
The day is coming when Hindu youth will march to the temples of Islamist patriarchy, be it Lutyens media headquarters or JNU arts departments, with a Koran in one hand and the Constitution of India in another. And demand that the Ayatollahs of secularism should pick one, just one.
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.