Picking the correct god

In today's India, it seems one can get away with anything in the name of God

In the last column, I shared my growing unease about the Kanwar Yatra, and how it seems to be spiralling dangerously out of control in Haryana. Now, violence has exploded in Nuh and other districts in the state, triggered by alleged stone-pelting during a yatra (when water from the Ganga is offered in one’s local Shiva temple) conducted by the Vishva Hindu Parishad.

Nuh (earlier called Mewat) is a name that has been cropping up regularly in right-winger rants for over a decade now. Declared the country’s most backward district by the NITI Aayog in 2018, it has a majority Muslim population (almost 80 per cent) and is regularly referred to in the provocative rants as a mini-Pakistan and a den of cow slaughter, over-breeding and love jihad.

It is being reported that the violence exploded because the VHP’s devout, peaceful yatris were subjected to stone-pelting by the ‘mini-Pakistanis’, but there is also talk of hateful slogans being chanted by the procession, and videos are emerging that show men in saffron shirts carrying naked swords and guns through the streets. Such weaponry isn’t really required equipment for the peaceful pooja these gents were there to conduct; so their motives seem pretty suss. On top of that, a dashingly named cow-vigilante had released a video prior to the event, flexing that he was to be part of the procession.

Illustration: Bhaskaran Illustration: Bhaskaran

All in all, the denizens of Nuh have been teased and baited relentlessly, rather like zoo animals are baited, in the hope that they would snap, show teeth or get aggressive, so that their tormenters could then unleash a disproportionate wave of mega-violence against them.

Minorities cannot afford to react to such baiting—whether they are billionaire superstars like Shah Rukh Khan or humble denizens of this little district in Haryana. It could threaten their very survival. So it is the duty of all sensible folk from the religious majority to speak up for them.

But India seems to have run out of sensible folk from the religious majority. The deafening silence seems to indicate that everybody is genuinely buying the narrative that wealth-stealing, women-stealing minorities are the biggest problem the country faces today.

Meanwhile, ugliness, hatred and fomented religious violence continue to boil in Manipur, which has done the impossible and pushed Kashmir’s sufferings to the back of the public’s mind.

And on a Jaipur-Mumbai train, a Railway Protection Force constable from the religious majority had an argument with his superior officer (also from the religious majority), shot him to death with his gun, and then moved on to another bogey to randomly shoot down three strangers, who were easily identifiable by their clothing itself. He made a garbled little speech after shooting them, referencing Pakistan and the media and how if you want to live in India you must vote only for Modi, Yogi and Thackeray.

Details are still forthcoming, but it is clear enough that the man has been consuming too much content from the social media hate factories. It is even being speculated that after killing his superior in a fit of rage, he cynically tried to give the situation a religious slant and went out in search of victims from a particular community.

Some are saying he has mental health issues.

No matter what the real story turns out to be, the fact remains that if religions were to be reversed, the reporting (and public opinion) around the incident would have been very different.

It seems that in today’s India, one can get away with anything in the name of God, given we chose the ‘correct’ god.