On Sunday (May 29), the English daily ‘The Times of India (TOI)’ provided a platform to the Indian-origin British journalist Hasan Suroor to give sermons on secularism. Hasan Suroor was arrested for the sexual grooming of a minor in 2015 but was later acquitted by a UK court.
In an article titled, ‘RIP Secularism: Let’s try a Hindu democratic Republic of India (T&C apply)’, Hasan Suroor resorted to false equivalence to paint Hindus as the aggressors and the Muslims as the victims of ‘majoritarianism’.
At the very onset, Hasan Suroor misled his readers about the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991. He suggested that the reclamation of ‘Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi and Shahi Idqah in Mathura’ was not possible due to the existence of the contentious Parliamentary law.
The columnist insinuated that Hindus must give up their claim on the destroyed Kashi Vishwanath temple complex by alleging “that no more historic disputes in relation to other religious structures would be entertained (by the Supreme court).”
Opindia had earlier reported how there are certain exemptions within the Places of Worship Act and how they can be used to reclaim the disputed structure.
If the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) declares the Gyanvapi mosque as an ‘ancient monument’ under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, given that the remnants of the temple are over 100 years old, the disputed structure will not fall under the ambit of the Places of Worship Act, 1991.
The usual false equivalence trope by Suroor
“For those of us who lived through the Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir nightmare, there’s a whiff of déjà vu about it with the usual suspects on both sides of the communal divide recycling familiar arguments and stoking passions,” Hasan Suroor claimed.
He tried to draw a false equivalence to trick the readers into a mirage of ‘neutrality.’ Given that one side (the Hindu community) has been the victim of cultural genocide and civilizational erosion, they cannot be blamed for staking a claim on what rightfully belongs to them.
The Gyanvapi mosque was destroyed by Mughal tyrant Aurangzeb in 1669 and there is ample evidence for the same. Despite being aware of the wrongdoings of the past, the Muslim community has not conceded the disputed structure to the Hindu side and instead been firm in their assertion of not losing ‘one more masjid.’
The perpetual victim card
Hasaan Suroor then tried to paint the Muslim community as ‘victims’ by suggesting that the odds are heavily stacked against them.
“The reality is that we are where we are, and the effort now should be to try and find a way out of the mess. And given how heavily the odds are stacked against Muslims and how much they have at stake in resolving the crisis, they must be prepared to make some hard choices,” he wrote.
By doing so, the columnist tactfully shifted the debate from the denial of historical wrongdoings by Islamic invaders to the State’s failure of secularism. Instead of acknowledging that it is wrong to idolise the invaders, he claimed that Muslims have no option but to accept the ‘majoritarian-isation of Hindu public opinion.’
“The idea that Hindus have the first claim over India has become deeply ingrained, even among many liberals,” Suroor asserted although former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had suggested otherwise in 2006.
Pinning the blame on Hindu ‘majoritarianism’
“This is not a plea for abandoning secularism altogether or suddenly embracing a theocratic Hindu state but to look for a model in tune with contemporary political and social realities. A new deal underpinned by realism rather than idealism,” Hasan Suroor remarked.
He further claimed, “This would mean finding the right balance between minority rights and the majority community’s sensitivities. The Hindu sense of grievance, real or imaginary, will have to be addressed in the larger interest of India’s unity.”
The British columnist shrewdly cast aspersions on the genuine concerns of the Hindu community and tried to suggest that the grievance might have been ‘imaginary.’ Far from realism and idealism, Suroor insinuated how Muslims will have to give in the ‘majoritarianism’ based on ‘real or imaginary grievances of the Hindu side.’
With a clever choice of words, the columnist was able to brush aside the concerns of the Hindus. Thus, Hasan Suroor’s article is a subtle attempt at fear-mongering, coated with an ounce of victimhood and packaged as an ‘alternative solution’ to supposed Hindu ‘majoritarianism’.
Allegations of paedophilia against Hasan Suroor
In November 2015, it was reported that Hasan Suroor was apprehended by the British Transport Police after he allegedly tried to sexually groom a 14-year-old.
As per reports, the journalist was caught when he tried to meet the underage girl in person. He had allegedly sent sexually explicit messages to the girl during a sting operation set up by an anti-paedophile group called Unknown TV.
Hasan Suroor had reportedly told the girl that he would be ‘gentle’ when the conversation centred around having sexual intercourse. He admitted that he had ‘conversations of a sexual nature with a minor’ and that he offered to buy condoms for the girl.
When confronted by Unknown TV, he pleaded innocence and claimed, “I told her I don’t want to (have intercourse). She came on Facebook herself. I was just waiting to buy her some coffee. Can you let me go with a warning? I have a clean record.” A video of the confrontation is still available on Youtube.
However, a year later, Hasan Suroor was acquitted by the Blackfriars Crown Court due to a lack of evidence. In a written submission in June 2016, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said, “Following a further review of the case there is now no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.”