‘Jai Shri Ram’ is primarily a religious uttering used by the Hindus to hail the victory of Lord Ram, the Prince of Ayodhia; but unluckily it has entered the political life of India carrying a fatal threat to minorities.
People in charged mobs bearing deep puckers on foreheads and bosoms overflowing with hatred for minorities chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ come down hard on the ones who think differently. This thinking spewing hate and vengeance has engendered murder of writers, intelligentsias and minorities especially the Muslims in India.
The democracy built on the foundations of secularism & tolerance as envisioned by its elders is mutating fast into an intolerant society dominated by the ideals of Hindu supremacy. Hyper-nationalism has permeated almost every section of society – judiciary, military, media, parliament, police, politics and academia.
Just now, I am reading a news item that the 11 accused, charged with the ruthless murder of Tabrez Ansari who was killed mercilessly with hands tied behind to a pole, have been released by the police. Tabrez was dictated by the mob to chant aloud ‘Jai Shri Ram’, he complied but was not spared even then.
Similar fate was meted out to Pehlu Khan who was rounded up by an angry mob shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’, and killed for carrying cattle from a fair in Rajasthan. Six men were arrested in this case. Just two weeks ago, all accused were acquitted by a court citing lack of evidence. Over this, former BJP lawmaker Gyan Dev Ahuja said that Khan was a “sinner” and he had “no regret over his death”.
The series of killings and lynching goes on in a briskly deteriorating state of affairs in India. Threats of murders and rape on social media are common with little condemnation from the people around.
Let us discover how it started. This simple religious greeting, ‘Jai Shri Ram’, became a battle cry for the first time in India in 1992 when a frantic gang of people under the patronage of the BJP’s then president LK Advani moved towards the site of Babri Masjid with a view to demolish it.
‘Jai Shri Ram’ as a political slogan of intimidation faded away considerably from the social fabric when the Congress ruled the country. But cinders remained there. When Mr. Modi ascended the throne of power in 2014, the dying embers got resuscitated and hate-culture started erupting and infiltrating each strata of Indian life.
Now the point is if this development is a natural offshoot of some pent-up feelings buried deep down in Indian consciousness and now sprouting naturally or if this has been forcibly injected into veins of Indian socio-political culture. I would go for the second version.
In 2017, over seven hundred academics and vice chancellors from 51 states and central universities of India gathered in Delhi University to learn how to bring the “true nationalist narrative” to the main discourse of India. The event was called the Gyan Sangam — knowledge summit. Its main motivator and speaker was Mohan Bhagwat, the supreme leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The topics under discussion, reportedly, were the “cultural onslaught on educational system,” the “colonisation” of intellectuals and the resurgence of nationalism in academia.
Under any murky atmosphere where things are turning into dilapidated forms, media’s role becomes paramount – it acts as a guide and mentor that suggests ways out. But here the vista presents a very gloomy picture. Journalists have become salesmen, selling proudly and gleefully the hate-ideology with as much verve as the ultra-nationalist Hindus are executing in the streets of India.
The spirit of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ resonates perceptibly in media houses where anchors bedaubed with hate-ideology fall hard on the dissenting voices that propound advisable and moderate ways.
When it comes to Kashmir, Indian media, while completely toing the lines of the ruling party, presents false, fictitious and distorted pictures; and sadly the public are made to believe them. Days ago, the renowned Indian journalist, Rana Ayyub, spent four days in Kashmir to report the facts for Washington Post. “You journalist dance on television that everything is normal here while we are being killed and silenced. Our children are in jail and have been disappeared and you tell the world that all is good, that we are rejoicing”, writes Rana while quoting the screams of a shopkeeper.
The phantom of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ will keep lurking in the mind of Indian consciousness striking outrageous blow to the secular façade of India until media is allowed to promote saner and moderate voices. In such egregious circumstances, the prudent and brave postures of the writers and academics like Sagarika Ghose, Rana Ayyub, Sadanand Dhume, Arfa Khanum Sherwan, Ashok Swain, and activists like Shehla Rashid are beacon of hope that can recuperate the epidemic of hate if accorded space.