By Battini Rao*
People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) condemns the murder of rationalist H Farook in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu on March 16, 2017. Farook was a member of Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam (Dravidian Freedom Organisation) which is inspired by the rationalist ideas of Periyar.
According to the police, the six men who killed Farook were self-radicalised and ‘claimed that their radical thought had justified the murder of a Muslim who had deviated from faith and they are proud of what they had done’. After Dr Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and Professor Kalburgi, Farook is the fourth rationalist who has been murdered by the so called champions of religion. On the same day, i.e. March 16, Prof Narendra Nayak, the president of Indian Federation of Rationalist Associations, was threatened with assault in Bangalore.
On March 19 in Jaipur a group of gau rakshaks led by one Sadhvi Kamal Didi vandalised a hotel and assaulted its staff claiming that it served beef. This violence occurred in the presence of the police. A repeat of Dadri violence last year was narrowly averted. In UP a number of meat shops have been burnt down by vigilante mobs after Mahant Adityanath Yogi’s administration sealed a number of abbatoirs. While it is beyond dispute that economic activity should be regulated, why have only these two activities been targeted, and what right to mobs have to attack any shop?
These are some of the latest instances of increasing violence in the name of religion in India. In fact, all of South Asia has become a battleground for religious fanatics hell-bent upon subjugating citizens’ freedoms via violence and killings.
Dissent from orthodoxy is a feature of religious history and is responsible for religious reform. Such dissent has also contributed to the growth of humanist and democratic values, which are the guiding principles of the Indian constitution and underlie the fundamental rights of all citizens. These rights include the freedom of conscience, the freedom of believers to profess and practice their religion, and also the freedom of non-believers to lead a life of dignity with their agnosticism or atheism.
However, state authorities often disregard constitutional provisions. Rather than upholding the citizens’ freedom to lead a life of their choice, including the right to eat food of their choice, police and judicial system routinely penalise citizens for ‘hurting religious sentiments’ of one or the other community. Murderers of Dabholkar, Panasare and Kalburgi are at large, and their political patrons have suffered no damage. In Jaipur police sealed a hotel on a mere allegation, while the FIR for violence on hotel staff does not even mention the sadhavi who led the mob.
Violence in the name of religion will not lead to any golden age. The consequences of religious authoritarianism are visible in Pakistan. The Hindutva brigade is cultivating a similar scenario in India. It wants to attack or threaten all those who disagree with its ideas or diktats. Political parties must realise that their existence depends upon the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Indian citizens. The cultivation of religious aggression is sheer opportunism; and prepares the ground for the sabotage of democracy by authoritarian forces.
PADS appeals to all Indians, irrespective of their religious beliefs, creed, or caste to stand against communal hatred and violence. The people committing or instigating this violence may appear to be targeting only rationalists and minorities today. In actual fact they are enemies of democracy and freedom. All of us who value our constitutional rights must unite to defeat such forces. PADS demands that state authorities stop collaborating hooligans and vigilante mobs, and fulfil their sworn duty to protect the lives, property and civil liberties of all citizens.