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How the unwarranted hounding of Nupur Sharma would shrink the space for dissent in India 

For Islamists, any criticism of Islam, even a well-meaning assessment intended to bring about a positive impact, is considered anathema and blasphemous. Their parochial brains regard Islam as a hermetic faith whose teachings are immutable and infallible, questioning which attracts 'sar tan se juda' threats.

“Dissent is the safety valve of democracy”, the next-in-line Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, famously said during his speech in Gujarat in February 2020. But the space for that dissent appears to be rapidly shrinking, spurred by the unwarranted and deplorable hounding of former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma for her comments on Prophet Muhammad.

Islamists, not just in India but around the world, are baying for the blood of Nupur Sharma because she refused to take the insults and barbs hurled at Shivling discovered inside the wuzukhana of the Gyanvapi mosque lying down and chose to confront the detractors with the same irreverence, albeit by quoting their religious scriptures, that they displayed against Hindu Gods and Goddesses. 

Her decision to stand up for her faith proved catastrophic for her political career and mental peace after AltNews co-founder Mohammed Zubair dog-whistled about her comments to the rabid Islamists, setting off a chain of events that culminated in a continuous volley of threats directed at Sharma and a diplomatic fallout in the Persian Gulf, with many Islamic countries having an abject record of religious freedom themselves rushing to criticise her comments and sanctimoniously seeking an explanation from India.

Facing an unprecedented diplomatic storm, the BJP suspended Nupur Sharma from the party. In the suspension letter, the party’s central disciplinary committee wrote, “You have expressed views contrary to the party’s position on various matters… Pending further inquiry, you are suspended from the party and from your responsibilities with immediate effect.”

Sharma, who found herself stuck at the centre of a seemingly unwarranted controversy, offered an apology as the furore transcended international boundaries and threatened to imperil Indian expatriates living under despotic Islamic regimes in the Middle East. In her apology, she explained how she had never meant to hurt the sentiments of Muslims but was instead opposing the uncalled for ridicule and mockery meted out on Hindu Gods and Goddesses.

However, this was not sufficient for the apoplectic Islamists, who would not placate with anything but Sharma’s severed head. Despite her apology and withdrawal of her statement, Islamists still protested against her. Brimming with rage and anger, they vowed to bring a similar fate to Nupur Sharma that Hindu Samaj leader Kamlesh Tiwari faced in 2019 when Islamists assassinated him for his nearly 5 years old comments on Prophet Muhammad, for which he had already served in jail and slapped with stringent provisions of the National Security Act by the Akhilesh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh.

But, it evidently did not mollify the simmering fury among the Muslim fundamentalists, who decided that Tiwari deserved no less than death for committing the “effrontery” of speaking on their revered Prophet. The same sentiments drive the maniacal threats dished out to Nupur Sharma for simply quoting from the Islamic Hadiths to speak on Prophet Muhammad. 

As Islamists rallied around to target and hound Sharma, Islamic terror outfit Al Qaeda issued a threat to India over remarks made on Prophet Muhammad. In a letter threatening suicide attacks in Delhi, Mumbai and Uttar Pradesh, Al Qaeda said, “We shall kill those who affront our Prophet and we shall bind explosives with our bodies and the bodies of our children to blow away the ranks of those who dare to dishonour our Prophet.”

The long Islamist tradition of using violence and intimidation to silence dissent and avoid critical assessment

Silencing criticism and dissent by using violence and extremism is an age-old tradition mastered over centuries by Islamists. Be it the assassination of the author of Rangeela Rasool in the early twentieth century or the brazen killing of the most outstanding Arya Samaji of the twentieth century, Swami Shraddhananda, or the recent attacks on Charlie Hebdo journalists and the horrifying beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty, the methods of Islamists, regardless of time, geography and era remain the same.

For Islamists, having an open discussion of the teachings of Islam or the texts about the Prophet Muhammad is a strict no-go zone. Islamists and their allies in the form of left-leaning liberals would resort to dog-whistling, targeting individuals who would confront them on their Islamic beliefs. Public scrutiny of the Islamic religious texts would attract both—intellectual opposition, as well as crude one—in the form of violence and intimidation as has been witnessed in the Nupur Sharma case where a bunch of left-leaning rejoiced over the unfolding of events that took place in the last few days, and Islamists, who issued vile death threats to the former BJP leader.

Anyone who speaks against Islam or broaches the topic of Prophet Muhammad has to face severe backlash from the liberal intelligentsia, who are quick to ostracise such individuals and brand them Islamophobic bigots. Their counterparts, in the form of Islamists, are emboldened by the manipulative narrative driven by them, dishing out threats against those whom they consider of having indulged in ‘blasphemy’. 

For Islamists, any criticism of Islam, even a well-meaning assessment intended to bring about a positive impact, is considered anathema and blasphemous. Their parochial brains regard Islam as a hermetic faith, whose teachings are infallible and which cannot be subjected to any public scrutiny. Islam, for them, is inviolable, their Prophet, unimpeachable. Therefore, people who do not conform to this worldview are considered fair game by Islamists to threaten, intimidate and even kill. And pointing out this violence in the name of religion, religious head is termed ‘Islamophobia’.

Nupur Sharma controversy shows Islamists have the backing of the Ummah while Hindus are left to fend for themselves

If anything, the Nupur Sharma controversy has revealed the strong support that Islamists in India enjoy from the global Ummah. A bunch of professional dog-whistlers perpetually engaged in whipping up paranoia among Muslims have undermined India’s diplomatic outreach in the Middle East while revelling in the nightmare that New Delhi had to navigate.

However, Hindus in India are not as privileged as the Islamists who have the backing of the global Muslim Ummah. They have to fend for themselves as witnessed in the Nupur Sharma case, where the beleaguered politician is left to take the rap for the unfolding controversy. The indifference toward Hindu sentiments was also evident during the Gyanvapi controversy when several notable personalities, including Saba Naqvi, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, and even The Economic Times, did not face any action for mocking Shivling discovered in the wuzukhana of the disputed structure. 

Hindus don’t have an ‘Ummah’ to amplify their concerns or pressurise the government into doing their bidding. Instead, they have a country replete with Jaichands and dhimmis, who would rather bend over backwards to curry favour with the Islamists than side with the Hindus to protect their religious freedom or for that matter, Freedom of Expression as enshrined in the constitution. 

The dichotomy of reactions elicited from the liberal intelligentsia on the ridiculing of Shivling vis-a-vis their inordinate hysteria on Nupur Sharma’s innocuous deed of quoting Islamic hadiths on Prophet Muhammad has struck a sobering realisation among Hindus about the double standards in the application of the FoS principle.

The space for dissent is poised to shrink as Islamists resort to intolerance and bigotry

The liberals gaslight Hindus by citing Freedom of Speech when they object to indiscreet utterances against Hindu Gods and Goddesses, distasteful jokes on Hinduism and scornful remarks against Hindu beliefs. Moreover, Hindus are sermonised and branded as intolerant and insecure for voicing their protest against insults and barbs that are thrown at their faith.

Of course, this treatment is exclusive to Hindus. When it comes to Islamists, something as bland as making comments derived from Islamic Hadiths attracts ‘sar tan se juda’ threats, with the liberals looking the other way. Furthermore, Hindus are, ironically, blamed for furthering polarisation and exhibiting bigotry. 

Against the current backdrop of unwarranted hounding of Nupur Sharma, it would not be an exaggeration to state that Hindus would be more inclined to jealously guard their faith and Gods than ever before. They would brook no criticism of their religious beliefs, insults to their Gods, or jokes made about their faith. The Islamists have the liberals and Ummah on their side, while the Hindus only seem to have nothing but an unwavering resolve to protect the honour of their faith.  

If there is a marked increase in the incidents of protest launched by Hindus, along with a flurry of FIRs filed by them over derogatory remarks and insults against their Gods, the Islamists and the Left will have themselves to be blamed for the shrinking space for dissent in India. 

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Amit Kelkar
Amit Kelkar
a Pune based IT professional with keen interest in politics

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