The suspension, the death threats and the protests against BJP leader Nupur Sharma from the party augmented a nationwide debate on the correlation between freedom of speech and religious sentiments. I would like to use this opportunity to express two incidents which are similar perhaps intertwined in some way and discuss my perception of life as an NRI, particularly as a Hindu, for the last seven years.
The first incident I have faced after the Kathua rape case in 2018. Many Indians irrespective of their religious beliefs protested against that incident on social media and also on the streets of India. I had been living in the capital of Alberta province in Canada at that time. Suddenly a notification popped up on Facebook that a rally was organized in the city to condemn the reprehensible incident in Kathua. While the heinous incident at Kathua needed to be condemned in the strongest words, the event itself was very surprising to me. I found that event offensive as the organizer tried to portray Muslims as being oppressed by Hindus in India and that led me to make a comment on that post to debunk their baseless claim with the fact that the Muslim percentage in India has been constantly expanding while Hindus from Pakistan and Bangladesh wiped out due to ethnic cleansing.
As a consequence of that, I received a death threat on messenger. Consciously, I contacted the local police station at that time to avoid any problem. I was advised not to chase that down any further. Owing to their advice I rested my case there and moved on, as it was vehemently difficult for me to fight against that force as an international student.
The second incident took place after the historic verdict of the honourable Supreme Court of India on Ram Janmabhumi. I went to have some coffee during my lunch break and suddenly a group of students from one of our neighbouring countries called me to have some chit-chat. They were previously known to me, and we used to maintain a friendly relationship despite the fact that they belong to a different religion. On that day, they suddenly started asking my opinion on the Ram Janmabhoomi verdict. I made it very clear that I was exceedingly happy with the judgement.
They started arguing with me that it was unfair to them. I tried to keep quiet and ignore them, and subsequently, they started abusing Lord Rama and Lord Krishna to provoke me. I kept smiling all the time and tried to clear their doubts. Before I left there, I politely explained to them that to produce a baby we need a sperm from the male and an oocyte from the female, so, it is not possible to give birth to a child if the gender of that person remains unknown. I further asked them to explain this inconsistency as per their religious beliefs. For that comment, they lodged complaints to many places against me. Again, I was advised not to agitate other students based on religious issues as that could lead to some drastic actions against me. So, I moved on with a smile.
I do not have any complaints with my Government when I had to keep silent abroad after my fellow friends from another religion purposely abused my religious beliefs but when a Hindu woman in India is forced to keep silent to react to abusive comments on her religious beliefs, it truly hurts! Reiterating Swamiji’s notion of being a Hindu, I believe every religion is true. Also, being a scientist, I believe in the fact that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Nupur Sharma’s comment on Prophet Mohammad was a reaction to recalcitrant comments on Hindu beliefs made by a Muslim panellist on that program. Hence, it makes no sense to leave her alone and fight against the system that killed Kamlesh Tiwari in India or Charlie Hebdo in France. The suspension of Nupur Sharma from the BJP should not be a matter of concern for us but those who are using Nupur Sharma’s reaction to capitalize on some political mileage must be identified as traitors to the nation. Being the homeland of Hindus, in India, we should have the liberty to use our freedom of speech in a meaningful way to criticize those who have been keeping faith in the medieval mindset with a lack of common sense, respectfulness and gratitude.