A group of 32 former diplomats have written an open letter in response to the slew of statements coming from the civil society groups in the wake of the Haridwar religious congregation’s anti-Muslim remarks, asking all stakeholders that the “call for violence must be unequivocally condemned regardless of their religious, ethnic, ideological or regional origin; double standards and selective condemnation raises questions about motives and morality.”
The letter key name in among the signatories to the letter is of former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal while the rest of them 31 are retired ambassadors.
It reads: ‘A motley group of activists, many of them known leftists with sympathies for Maoists, joined by some former civil servants and military figures who have held the highest positions in their careers, as well as some sections of the media, have been conducting a sustained smear campaign against the present government on its presumed violations of the secular ethos of the country.
“This has taken effectively an increasingly anti-Hindu tenor under the guise of anti-Hindutva. The latter has become a convenient peg for “secular” posturing, adopting virtue-signaling “constitutional” positions, relying on bloated vocabulary of “Nazism” and “genocide” to gather international attraction and leverage it to bring odium to the Modi government.
“This explains the movement in the US universities, for example, by elements of this assorted group to launch what are in reality anti-Hindu tirades.
“The latest example of this is the manner in which these miscellaneous elements have latched on to some objectionable anti-minority statements made at a religious gathering at Haridwar in mid-December. These should be condemned by all right thinking people no doubt, but when the import of these is exaggerated out of all proportion ranting by fringe elements are seen as representative of the sentiments prevailing in ruling circles, and as laying the agenda of what lies ahead at the national level, then the political leanings and moral integrity of the critics can be rightly questioned.
“A tirade of accusations and calumny has been let loose in an effort to falsely portray the Haridwar speeches as a force very much larger than the fringe groups they represent. A slew of articles has appeared in the press by predictable personalities in a seemingly coordinated attempt to malign the state of affairs in the country.
“Some journalists, speaking to the international media, have exposed their political bias by using terms like ‘genocide’ to describe the impact on a particular community. On a media platform in the Gulf countries, they have ranted about “countless mosques destroyed, countless Muslims killed, the third largest Muslim population in the world targeted for ‘genocide’” in India and more in the same vein.
“Some others have enlarged the canvas of their politically contrived prejudices to see in this event an all-round failure of the police, the judiciary, and other constitutional bodies. Overwrought fears are expressed about an irreversible fragmentation and disintegration of the country by what is described as brazen and violent attacks against minorities throughout the North Indian heartland by supposedly not fringe elements but ones dangerously close to mainstream, and holding that the instruments of state are being bent to advance this communal agenda.
“Amazingly, the claim of historical wrongs against the Hindu community is dismissed as flimsy, and the spectre is being raised of the State eventually arbitrarily targeting any citizen irrespective of faith. The Haridwar incident is projected ridiculously as a peril for all Indians.
“PM Modi’s message of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayas, is mocked by alleging that this is meant just for one community (the majority community), and not for all. This is line with attacks on “majoritarianism”, which is a way to question the mandate that the democratic process gives to the political party that wins elections legitimately and considers itself obliged to the electorate to implement its declared agenda lawfully.”
The letter further states: “If a handful of religious figures speak of installing a Hindu Raj in the country, is that a reason for former generals, admirals, IAS, IFS and IPS officers of the highest rank to paint a crisis scenario and appeal to the President and the Prime Minister to stop a presumed developing rot in the country? Is it that they have lost so easily after retirement that sense of proportion and judgment which raised them to career heights while in service? Does this reflect some frustration at not having obtained what they may have aspired for as recognition and reward from the government after superannuation, or is it that they made a discovery of their hitherto dormant political affiliations only after retirement? Are they investing in a potential political change at the centre? It is not as if these well-informed individuals are unaware that communal divide and religious violence have existed in the country since independence and before, and did not suddenly emerge after 2014.
“India’s national security is not as much threatened, in the eyes of the signatories to the appeal, by Pakistan and China as by a handful of sundry Hindu activists saying some nasty things about the minorities in some forum of little importance and aggressively asserting their Hindu identity. As it happens, prominent seers in Haridwar have condemned their utterances as provocative, irresponsible and “damaging to the religious and social harmony of India”. Action, including arrest, has been taken by the concerned state governments against the perpetrators. The redressal mechanisms are at work already.
“This cabal of anti-Modi government activists deliberately ignore anything positive that the Modi government has done as it does not suit their personal and political agendas. Under PM Modi, welfare schemes for minorities have seen sharp increases in expenditure, including on rural housing, scholarships for needy students, priority sector lending by banks, the rural and urban livelihoods mission, and the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana. In the first six years of the Modi administration, a total of Rs 22,000 crores was spent on minority welfare schemes, scholarships were awarded to 3.2 crore students from the minority communities, half of them girls.
RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat has said (July 2021) in a public statement at a book launch that “If anyone says Muslims should not stay in India, then he is not a Hindu…..Anyone who is involved in lynching is not a Hindu”. Such messaging has a powerful, widespread impact, not just on the immediate audience, and far beyond just the Hindu community. Taking note of this does not, of course, fit into the narrative that this group of feel-good activists want to disseminate.
Rather than seeking to end all calls for violence, regardless of the source these emanate from, the objective of the critics in question seems to be to heap blame on the government in power, elected with a sizeable majority, and to equate this electoral majority with one religious community. Such argumentation flies against the secular fabric of India’s society that this group claims to protect.
All these attacks on the government, which seem quite orchestrated, have been completely one-sided and skewed. In the first place, they seek to blame the government in power for every statement made by any group anywhere in the country, which uses the name ‘Hindu’.
Secondly, these arm-chair critics choose to ignore or dismiss equally virulent calls for violence and threats of violence made by not merely fringe groups, but by mainstream political figures in other communities, who have ranted about needing “only 15 minutes” to finish off the majority community. Another mainstream political party figure incited the people of one community to come together to “create four Pakistans in India”.
One-sided lessons to Hindus on secularism will not help build a secular India that these activists espouse. Why is it that their fear of being accused of Islamophobia or conserving their pro minority credentials deter them from decrying the religious violence and excesses in Punjab by Khalistani elements in league with Pakistan? They, as the responsible citizens that they claim to be, should be taking more balanced positions as a measure of their commitment to a secular India. The soft option is to attack out-of-line Hindu elements, as there is no fear of a blowback or reprisals. This amounts to political and moral cowardice.
One wrong deed does not justify another. However, if there is genuine concern about the deleterious impact of such pronouncements on society, it is important and logical to condemn all of them, with equal strength and determination.