The recent mob lynching of Tabrez Ansari, on the 17th of June in Jharkhand, Seraikela Kharsawan, which went viral across various social media platforms, left the whole country aghast, stirred our souls and has made us wonder whether it is the new normal. The visuals show the erosion of the principles of secularism and democracy, which stress upon religious tolerance.
Since the 2014 elections, increasing polarization, marginalization, fear-mongering, hatred and disaffection towards the others’ has resulted in many incidents of violence. The right wing, around the world, seems to have gathered enormous support, which encourages them to take matters’ into their own hands. Since the 2019 elections in May, 6 instances of mob violence/lynchings have already been reported on suspicions of petty crimes. While the world is moving towards abolishing the capital punishment, these groups murder people on the basis of baseless accusations.
This is not the India our forefathers had dreamt of. India emerged on the principles of secularism and people decided to stay during the partition because of the vision our leaders had for this country. Our leaders believed that with the progression of modernity and democratic politics, primordial sentiments of caste and religion would lose their relevance and socio-economic equality would be established. They strived for a modern society based on the principles of equality, liberty and fraternity.
Jawaharlal Nehru strongly believed that the onset of the process of industrialization and economic development would create pressure towards the formation of labour markets and ensure relatively free movement of labor which would facilitate the process of individualization. Furthermore he assumed that the operationalization of political democracy based on the Universal Adult Franchise, i.e. one person one vote, would also contribute to the process of social individualization. According to him, the powerful discourse of modern citizenship would create a deep relationship between the state and the citizens and thus intermediary affiliation of identity attached to them would weaken and wither away. During his tenure as Prime Minister, with each passing year, communalising forces were weakened, which is evident from the dropping rates of communal incidents during his tenure. The Nehruvian state, in its practice of secularism, zealously guarded its right to intervene in the social sphere to check communal politics and bring about co-operation and harmony amongst different communities. The anti-secular forces were present during his tenure as well and during his time as Prime Minister they had become very active due to the partition. They felt that the time was right for them to spread their wings and build upon the failure of the Gandhi-Nehru nationalism to keep India united and start a strong Hindu nationalist movement. The government in response acted firmly, decisively and quickly to quell the situation which was likely going to flare up communal tensions.
For Gandhi, all religions were true. His Hinduism was all inclusive. It was not anti-Muslim, anti-Christian, or against any other religion. He would not have lynched a Muslim man to glorify his religion by forcing him to chant Jai-Shriram or Jai-Hanuman. He always stressed upon non-violence and religious and mutual tolerance. Pluralism was the keystone of Gandhis philosophy, that is accommodative of all faiths.
As a civilized society, we must seek tolerance in our respective religions for others. The recovery of ‘religious tolerance’ is what we need. The government can play a vital role with efficient and farsighted leadership to acquaint people with the demerits of these communal incidents that are slowly incinerating the secular and social fabric of India.