Hate is not new to Indian politics. Communalism has always found a place in the mainstream Indian political discourse. Divisive and communal politics is especially played in the run up and during the midst of elections in India. Knowing this well, there is still something scary about the way this politics of hate and communalism has almost taken the centre stage now in Indian politics, especially during this particular election campaign. These lunatics no longer represent the fringe in Indian politics, but they seem to have become the mainstream.
Just look at some of the statements and incidents that have been made and taken place either during this election campaign or in the run up to the elections. It started with the communal carnage in Muzaffar Nagar late last year, where Muslims were on the receiving end. The state of Uttar Pradesh witnessed increased communal conflagration during the tenure of the current Samajwadi Party Govt, which culminated with the killings in Muzaffar Nagar. Both BJP and Samajwadi Party played politics of hate and polarization vis a vis this particular carnage.
One can also notice the kind of vitriolic statements that have been made during the course of these elections. In Gujarat a top RSS functionary told a public gathering how they could evict Muslims from a particular Hindu neighborhood. He told them that they should force the Govt to make laws which prevent Muslims from buying properties in Hindu localities or else forcibly take possession of Muslim properties and slap a Bajrang Dal board outside such properties. In another public gathering a Shiv Sena leader, said that Muslims will be taught a lesson when Narendra Modi becomes the PM of India. Narendra Modi was also sharing stage with him and didnt utter any condemnation of this statement. Continuing with this frenzy of hate, another BJP leader said that anyone opposing Modi will be sent to Pakistan.
What is alarming about this election campaign is that hate has now become mainstream. The people who espouse this hate and violence are no ordinary hoodlums. They are mainstream politicians who are fighting elections on their party tickets. It seems that various political parties know that hate pays in the electoral mathematics and hence none of these politicians have been pulled up or punished by their respective parties. At best political parties say they distance themselves from such statements, as if that is going to make such statements any less vitriolic.
On debate after debate on Indian news channels, party spokespersons are seen defending such kind of statements. It is not only the political parties that are reluctant to take action against such politicians, but even the Election Commission of India has been quite docile in dealing with such statements and has not come down hard on any such politician. The atmosphere has been vitiated so much that more than 30 people, mostly Muslims were recently killed in Assam by Bodo extremists. Spreading hate is almost a guaranteed way to electoral success these days in India.
It is not only politicians who have been adding to this polarizing discourse, but even common people, mostly on social media like Twitter have added a completely new dimension to this polarization. The level of abuse and intolerance on these social media platforms is unbearable and unparalleled. In a way the politicians in India are broadly reflecting the mood of the people. They know well that a certain kind of hate has taken over in the discourse among the public. This is evident not only on the social media platforms but even in mainstream media. It is very difficult to remain optimistic about India this election season.