By Banojyotsna Lahiri
Off late there are random attacks from certain people who want to brand the organization that I am part of from its very beginning, United Against Hate. Certain Centrist NGO activists who consider themselves as only and lonely crusader of ‘absolute secular politics’ perceive this organization as a communal organization, a front of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and cautions everyone against its ‘divisive agenda’. They also as a self-proclaimed responsible and accurate weather cock cautions against Muslim communalism that according to her is a ‘danger lurking in the shadows’ and will rear its ugly head exactly eleven years from now!
To put first things first, UAH is not a frontal organization or a camouflage organization of Jamaat or any such forces for that matter. It is an eclectic group of people that range from Leftists, Ambedkarites, AAP members, Congress supporters, ex-AAP supporters, RJD members, Jamaat members and individuals who are associated to NGOs and individuals who are associated to nothing at all. There are Muslims and non-Muslims, Hindus and non-Hindus and so on. What brought us together in 2017 was the spate of mob lynchings that started right after Modi came to power and about which there was almost a stunned silence in the political circles, barring few civil society outrages. Our initiative did not remain confined to the issues of mob lynching alone, although we have done a concrete intervention by providing legal political support to many of the victims. We have done fact-finding in Kasganj, Bihar during Ramnavami, Jharkhand, Assam on the NRC, in Atrouli in Aligarh and Bahraich, UP and so on. We have done public tribunals on UP encounters. A prolonged movement on Najeeb. Protests at various state Bhavans.
And most crucially we have organized mohalla-level meetings spreading political consciousness around notions of justice, equality, secularism, and constitutional values… We decided that we will do programmes in the constitution club and press club or Parliament Street but will also move out of those circles. We have done programmes so far in Aaram Park, Babarpur, Okhla, Mustafabad, Trilokpuri, Khureji. Many people who have attended these programmes were attending such a programme for the first time. Many people have joined us too. We have done all that in one year, yet we feel we have not done enough. We need to do more.
In that situation, these kinds of baseless attacks seem uncalled for. In their bid to uphold ‘absolute secular politics’ these self-proclaimed secularists never found any problem with the temple run of Congress leaders. (at least we have not seen them taking ANY position on that). But they find the time to write multiple social media posts and as we hear hold two meetings where they flaunted their clout against UAH and urged people not to join us or appear on our platforms. Do we deserve so much attention? It is complimenting us in a twisted way. In the time of the all-out fascist attack, however, it is definitely misplaced.
Now the problem of this ‘absolute secularism’ is that it considers political figures engaging with Hindu religiosity as a tactical move to engage with the masses, but when it comes to Muslims, they have to prove their flawless secular credentials and keep their religious beliefs and signifiers at home in order to join a movement. The most persecuted community, that is the Muslims, are expected to bear the weight of secularism and prove themselves in every step.
Truth be told, the Muslims at large today far from raising or demanding their basic constitutional rights as equal citizens of the country, are just happy to stay alive. Such is the unfortunate state of affairs. From the electoral opposition, they and their questions of justice and dignity have literally been invisibilized in the national discourse. They have been taken for granted as a community that has “no other alternative” but to vote for the opposition.
Their basic demands for equal opportunities, their basic civic demands, and their right to practice their religion without fear – nothing matters. And despite being pushed from all quarters they are also expected to and they, in fact, are disproportionately shouldering the responsibility or if I may call the burden of secularism most responsibly and maturely.
Yet the ‘lonely secularists’ see the ghost of Muslim communalism and imagine UAH to be front of Jamaat and hatching conspiracies of an Islamic take over 11 years from now. We would like to tell them that more than the dichotomy of Hindu fundamentalism and Muslim fundamentalism, it is better to evaluate our times as a fight against majoritarianism, which has now taken the proportion of being Fascist. The majority’s religion may differ from country to country and alongside may change the colour of majoritarianism. It can be Zionism in one place, Rabid Islamism in another and here it is Brahminical Hindutva. The measure of any democracy from time to time in history is in its strength to counter and defeat such majoritarian tendencies first.
Some of these people who are levelling these mindless allegations against us, actually have a long experience of being in NGO struggles which we do recognize. What we can’t understand is this misplaced anger against us and the branding that she is constantly doing against UAH. We have been tirelessly working to uphold the constitution and the rule of law that is thrown at tatters right now with every incident of mob lynching and communal attack.
Can they quote any of our speech, statement, pamphlet, report and show us how we are communal? We know they can’t.
Is this a beginning of a long informed polemics between UAH and this particular NGO on secularism and various shades of communalism? Actually not. As I mentioned earlier, we have a lot of real struggles to fight.