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Hey Mahua Moitra, would you dare mention ‘Muslim boys secretly eating pork’ in your Lok Sabha speech?

The excessive concern for the rights of minorities is reserved only for Muslims and to a certain extent for Christians, but not for Jains who are subordinated to a lower status and regarded as expendables by the opposition parties and their stooges in the media.

Besides being coarse and boorish in her Lok Sabha speech, for which she was rightly called out by Speaker Om Birla and opposition MPs, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra was also presumptuously insulting towards the Jain community when she insinuated that Jains secretly consume non-vegetarian food against the government’s alleged ban on meat in Gujarat.

The deplorable remarks, which were a direct assault on the ethos and principles of Jainism that strictly forbids the consumption of meat, were made by Mahua during her tirade against the Centre on its alleged efforts to curb individual rights and liberties.

Accusing the Modi government of constraining individual liberties, Mahua said, “You fear a future India which is comfortable in its skin and conflicting realities. So you fear a future India where a Jain boy can hide from home and enjoy a Kathi Kabab on a street cart in Ahmedabad. So, you forbid non-vegetarian street food in Gujarat municipalities,” she said.

While Mahua aimed to attack the Centre, the unwarranted insinuation against the Jain community, of accusing its adherents of craving for non-vegetarian food and secretly consuming it, sparked outrage amongst Jains who felt attacked by the Trinamool Congress leader’s gratuitous remarks.

A raft of Jains on social media expressed stern objection to Mahua’s remarks in the Lok Sabha, slamming her for insulting the community, that too a minority, in lieu of gaining political mileage. Many others asked Moitra to apologise for her statements that painted the community in a bad light and had hurt the sentiments of its adherents.

Nevertheless, the entire episode exposes the sham of “fighting for the rights of minorities”—a trope that opposition parties, including the TMC, routinely drum up—in their bid to fashion themselves as the saviours of the minority communities while simultaneously accusing the Modi government of championing the majoritarian cause.

Jains form one of the tiniest minorities in India. Close to 4.4 million people or 0.4 per cent of the total population of India are Jains. They are guided by strict principles, including that of non-violence, not just against fellow human beings but all living beings. And this principle of non-violence, which is one of the central tenets of Jainism, extends to the prohibition of meat consumption as Jainism considers it morally repugnant to satiate one’s culinary preferences by killing and eating living beings. Nonviolence is such an important principle of Jainism that Jains abstain from consuming root vegetables like potato, onion and garlic as they contain millions of microorganisms.

And yet, Mahua Moitra felt no compunction in casually defaming Jainism during her speech on the floor of the lower house of the parliament. The minority status and the ethos of Jainism hardly concerned Mahua, who considered it fair-game to malign Jains and Jainism in her larger efforts to paint the government as intolerant and averse to individual rights and liberties.

The constant vilification of Jains and Jainism by opposition, especially after PM Modi came to power in 2014

Perhaps this apathy towards Jain sensitivities stems from their insignificant population and largely peaceful demeanour. Politicians are willing to estrange Jains because they know that their numerical strength isn’t potent enough to negatively impact them in elections. In addition to this, Jains also do not exhibit violent tendencies as displayed by members of other communities. Politicians like Mahua are rest-assured that Jains won’t take to the streets with calls for ‘sar tan se juda’ as is the case with some communities who get inflamed on the slightest of provocations.

However, Jains are used to such constant vilification for some time now, especially after PM Modi’s ascension to power in 2014, a leader who commands a massive following among the Jain community. Back in 2015, Jains were targeted after an assorted group of politicians, journalists and eminent personalities attacked the BJP government in Haryana for appealing slaughterhouses to halt their operations temporarily during Paryushan Parva, the Jain festival of self-purification.

But a humble appeal to abattoirs to cease their operations temporarily was characterised as a diktat by the government to control what is consumed by people. And this led to the demonisation of Jains, with people believing that Jains were asking for such bans. People on social media had then attacked Jains, mocked their faith, customs, and threatened to throw meats loaves at their places of worship. However, scant efforts were undertaken to dispel the rumours as opposition parties and pliant journalists buckled down on the task of targeting the Jain community.

While the opposition parties bend over backwards to humour unreasonable demands made by members of other minority communities, especially Muslims and Christians, the same kind of favourable treatment is not extended to an even smaller minority such as Jains, who are not regarded as equals to their Muslim and Christian counterparts. For instance, the defamatory remarks by Mahua Moitra against Jains have not triggered as bigger an outcry as the Karnataka college issue where hijab-clad students were denied entry into the premises for not complying with the institution’s dress code.

The issue sparked massive outrage among opposition parties and supporters of the Left persuasion, who exaggerated the incident and called it a deliberate attempt to target minority Muslims. The fact that girls were not abiding by the institute’s codes concerning uniform did not bother the detractors, who are constantly on the prowl to pull out the Muslim victimhood card and accuse the BJP of targeting Muslims on account of their religion. This excessive concern for minorities, however, is reserved only for Muslims and to a certain extent for Christians, but not for Jains as witnessed in the reticence of the Left and other opposition parties in calling out Mahua Moitra for her condemnable remarks against Jains in Lok Sabha.

Will Mahua Moitra demonstrate the courage to mention ‘Muslim boys secretly eating pork’ in her Lok Sabha speech?

The attacks that Jains endured in 2015 and the indifference they are witnessing today is emblematic of how they are considered a lesser minority than others. Mahua Moitra, being an opposition leader and belonging to a party that claims to champions the cause of the minority communities, had no qualms making defamatory insinuations against Jains. So did the other opposition leaders and left ‘intellectuals’ who display unmatched alacrity to take up the cudgel for minorities and defend their rights. Perhaps for TMC and other opposition parties, only Muslims and Christians are minorities that are worth fighting for, as their disproportionate concerns for these two communities reflect, while other minorities are considered expendables in their political battles against the Centre.

It has been close to two days since Mahua made the reprehensible remarks against Jains in Lok Sabha, but there has been no apology from the TMC MP, not even a hint of regret for maligning Jains in her bluster against the Centre. Instead, some voices have come in support of the leader, arguing that she was simply pointing out the government curbs on individual rights. If that indeed is the case, would Mahua Moitra dare mention “Muslim boys secretly consuming pork” in her next speech in Lok Sabha?

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Jinit Jain
Jinit Jain
Writer. Learner. Cricket Enthusiast

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