India is one of those countries which came into democratic existence through years of struggle and dissent against its colonizers. Despite such a situation, there is discomfort in the air when there are talks about dissent.
Especially in the case when criticisms are raised against the government which are met with censorship and detentions. Religion in India is a sensitive issue per say, because of strong opinions revolving around it. Moreover, religion has been used as a political strategy and propaganda since the time of the British rule; they used the policy of divide and rule to expand their empire and avoid any coup. This policy has continued till this very year. Religious divide in this country is strong and vote bank politics have resulted in many victories over the years.
How well does the combination of politics and religion go together? It shouldn’t exist at all. Constitutionally speaking, with the principle of ‘secularism’ in the preamble, it means that the state ensures equality all religions. People are allowed to profess and practice the religion of their choice. There is ‘no’ state religion. However, the country was partitioned on communal lines. So does that mean that the majoritarian community dominates? Nehru believed that Indian secularism was vital because he had seen first-hand how communalism had resulted in the division of the country (into India and Pakistan) in 1947. For him, the Partition of the subcontinent had not only cut Indian Territory in two but had also divided a civilization. Following independence, Nehru considered Hindu communalism to be the country’s top enemy; his fears were heightened after Nathuram Godse—a man associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological wellspring of Hindu nationalism—murdered Mahatma Gandhi in 1948.
Despite the debates on secularism and the progression, religious extremism has only increased. There is growing intolerance in every aspect. The government who is subject to criticism is intolerant in their own sphere. Religious intolerance is a big problem. It is to be kept in mind to be sensitive towards all religions keeping the history of the country in mind. Be it the demolition of Babri or the Bangalore Riots, there are striking similarities. Extremist groups like the Bajrang Dal, RSS, PFI have brewed communal hate amongst communities to push their agendas through the political affiliations.
The riots in Bangalore took place after P. Naveen posted a derogatory message on Facebook against Prophet Mohammad and Islam on 11th August, 2020. P. Naveen is the nephew of Congress MLA R. Srinivas Murthy of Karnataka. The message was circulated on WhatsApp and protests broke out. The mob was led by Socialist Democratic Party leader, Muzammil Pasha. There were contradictions between the police and SDP party and people Violence broke out outside the DJ Halli Police Station. The police used tear gas and even opened fire to control the violent mob. Vehicles were torched and property was damaged which resulted in 3 deaths and 50 police officers getting injured. The property of P. Naveen and the Congress MLA was also damaged.
Now, was this a protest or a way to show dissent? Absolutely not! Vandalism never equates to dissent and this is being said irrespective of religion. The damage to public property is a not a way to demonstrate criticism. The post on Facebook should have been taken down the minute it was posted as it amounted to Hate Speech. The community guidelines on Facebook need to be stricter. The FIR registered against the individual led to his arrest. No doubt the post was derogatory in nature but a legal discourse should have been followed.
The growing intolerance has led to the destruction in these terms. Due to the destruction and extremism, even dissent which is usually a peaceful protest or rally is shown in a negative light.