January 10, 2022
Hate is growing. It does not bode well.
We see hate between religious groups, ideological groups, nations and races. Hate, unfortunately, seems to have become second nature for people. Seeds of hate were sown in our nation at its inception and India at 75 is reaping a bumper harvest of hate, prejudice and intolerance. This is not what our founders had visualised.
The original Preamble of the Constitution talked about fraternity and brotherhood as the cornerstones of our nation. It was later amended and made more explicit when ‘secular’ was added to it; it reaffirmed faith in what our founders and writers of the Constitution dreamt India should become, despite the trauma of Partition.
After reluctantly accepting the idea of Partition, Mahatma Gandhi, or Bapu, worked in the limited time he was allowed to live to heal wounds and prevent the division of hearts. He firmly believed that if the hearts of all Indians remained united, despite their religion or domicile, then territorial boundaries would be inconsequential and we would revert to being one people. He failed. The seeds of hate were planted too deep in our collective psyche.
Bapu believed that Indians were by nature non-violent; he was mistaken. His murder shocked India back to sanity – but only temporarily. Within seven decades, Indians reverted to being haters and killers. Today, hate has become our identity as a people and murder our creed. We have become a nation of venomous people.
You only have to see how prevalent hate is in our children and youth. The recent arrests in the Bulli Bai case – Muslim women were offered on an auction site to shame and harass them – show that haters are all around us, across genders, ages and even in institutions of higher learning.
What is shocking and worrying is how most of us are unmoved by such behaviour. Be it the campaign against Friday namaaz being offered in designated public areas in Haryana or a public oath to ‘protect’ Hinduism by killing Muslims or a mass oath taken to boycott and isolate Muslims in Chhattisgarh. Or an enforced oath by school children to be intolerant of other religions. Or terrorising groups of Christians at Christmas and attacking and vandalising churches and educational institutions run by missionaries in Haryana and Karnataka. Hate is manifest in the display of placards warning non-Hindus of dire consequences if they dared to take a dip in the Ganga at Varanasi. It’s apparent in the misnamed dharma sansads, although there is no dharma to be seen in those who spew hate there. I don’t even want to bring up the scorn and venom poured on Bapu at these events.
Look at the amount of hate directed at non-Hindus and the loud calls to kill Muslims as a religious duty. The docile acceptance of it by a majority of Indian society is worrying. Equally worrying is the official apathy towards these criminals – state law and order agencies have displayed a perceptible reluctance to prosecute hate mongers.
The chief minister of the state, the prime minister and the Union home minister are yet to criticise this hate mongering, let alone condemn it. This is behaviour is adharma in practice.
“The feeling of hatred in a man is a sign of his weakness. Only a weak man can be carried away by hatred… Hatred shows the extinction of the religious spirit.”
MK Gandhi, Day-to-Day-With Gandhi
It flows from the top
It is election time and recent trends show that, under the guise of campaigning, the opportunity will be utilised to spew venom. We have become addicted to this venom. Even the prime minister and senior ministers indulge in communal, hate-filled rhetoric, unmindful of its divisive effects and how it radicalises impressionable minds. “Goli maaro gaddaaron ko.” (shoot the traitors) has become an officially acceptable slogan during campaigns.
“Hatred is wrong at any time and everywhere.”
MK Gandhi, Harijan, February 24, 1946
The demand for a Hindu Rashtra is not new. VD Savarkar propounded it as early as the 1920s when he endorsed the two-nation theory. The lunatic fringe and their supporters have been keeping the demand alive ever since. They justify the demand by pointing out that the Muslim League succeeded in getting a separate homeland for Muslims. Since then, “if Muslims can have a homeland, Pakistan, Hindus must also have a Hindu Rashtra” has been a demand of the Hindu extremists.
When proclaiming India as a Hindu Rashtra was suggested to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, he dismissed it as an insane idea. Under the pretext of the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign and the bogey of Muslim appeasement popularised by LK Advani, especially in the wake of his extremely divisive rath yatra, he made hate mainstream in Indian politics by vitiating the ideal of secularism as ‘pseudo secular’. That stuck.
The guilty are among us
Today, being secular is equated with being anti-national. Now we see hate becoming the mainstay of politics and a formula for electoral success. But all these political opportunists only exploit the weakness that is inherent within a majority of us – and this is not exclusive to Hindus. Opportunist, irresponsible leadership amongst Muslims has also indulged in it and so has the Christian clergy, although thankfully it’s a minuscule minority so far.
Unfortunately, the Congress, considered a subscriber to secular ideals and non-violence, has indulged in hate crimes too – the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi and North India in the wake of the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
“Man cannot worship God and at the same time despise his fellow beings. The two are irreconcilable.”
MK Gandhi, Bapu Ke Ashirwad, September 28, 1945
The wounds inflicted by hate are long-term; they fester and turn gangrenous. The only way to heal the wounds is through the balm of love. Unfortunately, the poison has permeated into all of us – so much so that often those who claim to be liberals also plumb the depths of the haters.
Bapu said hate can only be effectively neutralised only by love. Even when he was assaulted and attempts were made to kill him, he refused to respond with anger or hate. He even refused to press charges against his assailants. He wanted to embrace them with love and understanding and to help them expunge the venom.
We have seen the consequence of hate campaigns manifest themselves a mob lynchings. It started on the pretext of cow protection, but has since become a weapon to terrorise minorities and even the Hindu lower castes. We watch docilely as its occurrence increases. Our silence and inaction makes us much accomplices to the crimes.
Indian society is dying; hate is consuming us. We must act against this lethal pandemic before it is too late. No external force is capable of doing it but the venom of hate within us will ensure that we die as a nation.
“If God resides in every heart, then who dare hate whom?”
MK Gandhi, Bapu Ke Ashirwad, July 22, 1945
Tushar Gandhi, great grandson of the Mahatma, is an activist, author and president of the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation. Reach him here: email@example.com.
Cartoons published in various publications during Gandhi’s lifetime. Courtesy of the Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon.