DAMMS strongly condemns the double faceted character of the state government towards the Pangals

/ Guest Column / Monday, 19 July 2021 17:00

By: Khullakpam Alim
President, Delhi Association of Manipur Muslim Students [DAMMS]
With the ascendency of the BJP in power, the issues of cow slaughter have been on the specter of Indian politics. The background that lies behind this ‘cow politics’ is Hindutva politics, a new political ideology that pushes the current majoritarian political discourse in the country. At the nucleus of this Hindutva politics are the authorization of religious minority communities such as Muslims, Christians, and other tribal groups and religious polarization as means to promote these fevered politics. The cow politics portrays the Muslim community as a constant threat to the Hindu’s identity, a perceived common enemy that must be dealt with aggressively. In a mission to establish a Hindu Rashtra, Hindutva politics, in its full swing, use the Hindu elements, symbols, and cultures under the current hegemonic government thereby squeezing the space for the survival and promotion of others’ cultures, beliefs, and practices. This is, in fact, uprooting the secular ethos and turning this multicultural social fabric into a completely homogenized cultural union. Ghar wapsi programs, love-jihad, cow protection campaign, and others- all in all, in this new political theatre of Hindu nationalism, a phenomenal surge of anti-Muslim dog whistle has been observed everywhere. Such communally charged politics costs the lives of many Muslims, in the name of cow protection, by giving full impunity to fringe elements who get emboldened and lead to terrible consequences such as mob lynching, attacks, and violence against this otherized community- Muslims. Alternative to people’s development politics, this Hindutva politics, driven by irrational paranoiac fear of its identity, has now become the most effective means to gain power, consolidate the desperate Hindu vote through ostracising the Muslim community and driving them out from the public sphere. This ultra-nationalistic majoritarian politics jeopardizes the country’s pluralistic and diverse foundations and democratic norms that are essentially the binding glue of this nation’s diverse cultures, regions, religions, castes, ethnics, and so on and this plurality is being put in a highly endangered situation. On broad, Hindutva politics is bringing a “New India” wherein the present multicultural society is being transformed into a monocultural society- an exclusively Hindu culture that is to be accepted and followed by fellow non-Hindus Indians. The popular catchphrase, “To be Indian is to be Hindu” underlines this Hindutva philosophy and this is, indeed, a challenge to be resisted if we wish to preserve our multicultural society.
It is argued that India is in a premature phase while designating it as a complete nation, still in the making process. The incongruity between political and national boundaries is one such problem that poses a constant challenge to its nationhood. It leads to saying, “In the case of Western context, it is the nation that creates the state while in the case of India it is the state that is creating the nation”. In trying to construct a homogenous nation, the Hindutva nationalism seeks to eliminate all the distinct particularities and differences of cultures, traditions, and religions by absorbing all in the fold of Hindu culture and religion. This homogenizing project of Hindutva politics is opening a can of worms which is quite difficult to reconcile with when it comes to the Northeast demographic structure. In fact, the region is populated by diverse ethnic, tribal, and religious groups associated with unique cultures and traditions, which are markedly different from the Hindi heartland cultures, traditions, and rituals. This has been considered a constant threat to the unity and integrity of the nation- an oddity to their nationalism discourse. Unable to tolerate these cultural differences along with their misguided myth of racial superiority have led to the assumption that the people of the North-East as uncivilized and uncultured. This cultural supremacy is extremely upsetting the cultural diversity of the regions. In these regions where the Muslim populations are insignificant, they have employed different tactics and made them serve in accomplishing their larger goal of creating “One culture, One nation”. Owing to the acceptance of the perceived cultural hierarchy and self-made obligation, they are implementing a disguised cultural mission- a classic colonial tactic- to assimilate the cultural landscape of the region with the popular Hindu culture. This is being carried out by bringing in different legislations, policies, and cultural infiltrations like the imposition of Hindi-Sanskrit, popularization of Bollywood movies, and saffronization of education and history. The cow politics- the banning of slaughtering and killing of cattle- is again found at odds with the food habits of these regions and completely alien to the region since the cow has been one of the steady natural sources of food in the culture of the whole North-East people. The banning of such a food source is a mere imposition of the unfamiliar food habits which might bring into a constant conflict with their culture since food habit is considered a significant marker of one’s identity shaped by culture. There is a popular dictum, “You are what you eat”. Intolerant of such food habits, cultures, and physical appearances, the North-East people have been facing discrimination ranging from basic rights of living to larger issues of citizenship: they are being racially abused, traumatized, and harassed over the decades when they go outside their native regions. Many have expressed their serious concerns over the recent legislation by the BJP- led Assam government regarding the banning of cow slaughter in the state. The portrayal of Muslims as the common threat is nevertheless expedient to whitewash their mission of annihilating the diverse regional cultural specificities to realize their imagination of Hindutva nationalism.
The state, Manipur, is the home of multi-ethnic and religious communities. Amongst these different groups, Pangal, being the most marginalized and backward community, has been subjected to a myriad of structural discrimination both from the state as well as the majority community. In many of the government’s policies, the deliberate sidelining and otherization of this community have been witnessed. Apart from this government discriminative tendency, the negative stereotypes attributed to this community by the majority community make people who are charged with these images develop into a mobocracy culture: an extreme anti-minority sentiment which unleased permissive space for hate attacks such as mob lynching, false accusation, etc. It is worth mentioning the 1993 pogrom of Pangals where hundreds of lives of Pangals were massacred wherein state was thought to be colluded with fringe elements. This led to severely stigmatized and extremely peripheralized social conditions. A deep mistrust whereby the harmonious co-existence of these communities remains a far distant dream. Amid this highly polarized ecosystem, the endorsement of Hindutva politics, a hatred fuelled divisive politics, will aggravate the existing, already worsened relationship among the communities. The abrupt re-issuance of the letter subjected to the “Stopping of illegal/killing/sacrifices of cows/calves, camels and other animals and taking action against the offenders for violation of Transport of Animal Rules on the occasion of Bakrid” on 13th July 2021 under the supervision of Superintendent of Police/CID(CB), Manipur, Imphal cannot be read plainly but an endorsement of Hindutva politics. The issuance of the letter just before Bakrid may serve in maligning the Pangal community but it also intricately targeted the larger food habit and implicitly the identity of the whole Northeasterners. Vividly, the intent of the letter is categorical and sectarian as such regulations and norms are supposedly be operationalized with no categorization on whatever basis of race, religion, or community. But it has been directed towards maligning a particular religion that completely trespassed the secular ethos of the constitution where the state should remain neutral to any of the religious affairs. In the context of the rituals of sacrificing any animal, Muslims have their own Halal way of taking the soul of an animal, in the quickest and most humane way. This, we believe, stands in no contradiction to any of the legislations already put in place regarding the slaughtering of animals.
When such emasculating forces, either from the state or other social forces, infringe upon identity, the way CSOs and the so-called political representatives of Pangal react bears the manifestation of a highly inapt political and socio-cultural outlook. This has apparently weakened the mechanism to communicate its collective consciousness which possibly thwarted the fuller development of political mobilization. Such a weak foundation creates a situation conducive for any external threats that can easily permeate and exploit its vulnerabilities. The so-called leaders of the CSOs and political representatives, more often than not, act as an agent of the state rather than representing the real aspirations and concerns of the community. In various movements the CSOs serve as the negotiating platform and political representatives as connecting link with the state where the community’s collective identity is traded off for a few personal political mileages which exacerbate the disadvantages and stigmatization of the community. Neither the positive outcomes as intended by the masses nor could any movement be sustained longer owing to such ‘politics of compromisation’ played by the Pangal representatives and CSOs.
In any case, realization of community’s larger aspiration is always catalyzed by political struggles and popular movements. But, the supposed vanguard of the movement, CSOs and other representative, seems losing their credibility from the Pangals questioning their integrity and resoluteness. This has rendered the longstanding challenges faced by the Pangal community unsolvable. What adds to magnifying its vulnerability is its deplorable situations across all indices of socio-economic indicators, compounded by the state’s incompetency in delivering an inclusive social policy. Besides, the impotence of the judicial institutions to check this highly polarized politics and its inefficacy in bringing victims to justice and leaving the perpetrators scot-free in many instances diminish the faith rested upon it by the minority communities.
We, Delhi Association of Manipur Muslim Students [DAMMS] strongly condemn the order of taking action against the purported offenders in sacrificing animals in relation to Bakra Eid. It is an absolute violation of one of our fundamental rights- the right to profess and practice one’s faith. It is also a violation of the community’s right to shape and preserve its own identity. The letter openly directs against a particular community by restricting the ritual practices fundamental to Islam. The follow-up clarification reveals the duplicitous face of the government which hightens the suspicion of possible misuse and abuse of power in victimizing and persecuting Pangals. The people of the state must understand that cow politics is a larger project of Hindutva which may have serious repercussions to all the ethnic minorities coexisting in the state. Therefore, all must come up united to resist such external forces to preserve and protect our unique cultural identity. And a sincere appeal to the state and different media houses is to be responsible and accountable for everything that is circulated in the public. If the government is perceptive enough to the interest of this community it must not come up with a clarification or updated circulation with excuses which in fact unveils its prejudicial, unconcerned, and discriminative attitude to the community. More importantly, Pangal CSOs and political representatives must be sensitive to the community’s collective aspirations and should not compromise the identity of this community at all. We are what we eat, we are what we think, and we are what we repeatedly do.

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