Hindus today might believe that Nupur Sharma’s comment was “unnecessary”, but if there was a word of caution, it would be this – tomorrow, they will say your very existence, the existence of the dirty Kafir that they are theologically and viscerally meant to hate is an affront to their faith.
On the 5th of June, BJP suspended the now-former spokesperson of the party, Nupur Sharma, after certain Muslim countries started getting irate about certain comments she had made during a debate (basically, quoting the Hadit). The BJP claimed that Nupur had taken a stand contrary to theirs on several occasions and therefore, an inquiry would be initiated against her pending which she would stand suspended from the party – a party she had been associated with for over 15 years.
The move led to widespread condemnation predominantly from those who support and vote for the BJP since the move was seen as the party taking away institutional support from her amidst death and rape threats by Islamists. Those who prefer to support the party with utmost loyalty have theorised that she is being given protection against the threats she has been receiving, however, her suspension is in the national interest because India cannot afford to dent its hard-won relationship with the Muslim world. I would not be getting into that argument since it is beyond the scope of this article.
However, there were certain other arguments made to essentially justify the suspension of Nupur Sharma. One of the most predominant ones relied on the classic argument – ‘But it was unnecessary for Nupur to get into that argument’, ‘It was unnecessary for her to insult their faith’, ‘It was unnecessary for her to lose her patience on national television? Does she not know they get violence about perceived blasphemy?”.
The obvious problem with this argument is that it essentially blames the victim. By saying this, even if it is said with reference to her suspension, one tacitly ends up justifying the threats that she has been at the receiving end of. The Islamists use exactly this argument to justify their calls for “Sar Tan Se Juda’. They say, “Nupur Sharma should have known that if she comments on Prophet Muhammad, we will get offended and demand her head”. The logical slide of this argument is staggering. If the “She should have known better” argument is to be accepted, every victim of every crime can be shamed using it. One basically places far more value on someone’s whim than facts when one uses this argument – Because Nupur Sharma chose to legitimately exercise her freedom of expression, the calls to behead her are justified because she should have known that her speech can lead to hurt feelings which can, in turn, lead to her execution.
But beyond the logical slide of that argument, there is a civilisational aspect that is far more concerning. First and foremost, we perhaps need to understand the civilisational illiteracy from which this argument stems.
For the longest time, Indians, even in schools, have been fed with tropes about all religions being equal. It is a trope that has made Indians, especially Hindus, rather blind to reality and insufferably sanctimonious. One of the reasons why certain Hindus believe that Nupur Sharma’s comments were “unnecessary” is because they truly believe that all religions are fundamentally equal and it is not completely abnormal to be offended when remarks about one’s faith are made. That argument is not off the mark – it is natural to be a little hurt – but it is certainly not the characteristic of every faith to give calls to behead. What is also untrue is that all religions are equal.
The ‘all religions are equal’ claim stems from notions of religious pluralism. Religious Pluralism essentially says that firstly, all religions must acknowledge that certain truths exist in other religions as well, thereby declaring that it is not only their own religion that is the ‘only truth’. Further, it says that all religions must acknowledge that every religion teaches basic universal truths that have been taught since before the advent of religion itself.
When one delves into the principles of religious pluralism as a construct that can enable religions to co-exist without sectarian violence, it becomes important to ensure that all religions are brought down to the same surface level and hence, the claim that all religions are the same takes a beastly proportion where cultural context is often lost. At the very outset, it suffices to say that Islam lays out a doctrine for the humiliation of Kafirs.
When verses of the Quran ordain its followers to slay Kafirs and Polytheists, one has to wonder how can a religion that is at odds with Polytheism be equal and aspire for the same goals as that of a Polytheistic religion? When Islam is at odds with Polytheism and the religious texts explicitly mention the subjugation of any Polytheist faith, how accurate is it to say that all religions are exactly the same?
Therefore, why it is “necessary” for Hindus to talk about, dissect and analyse Islam openly and honestly is because it is a faith that demands the sacrifice of Hindus. There is nothing remotely similar in Hindu texts that goad the Hindu community to annihilate those who follow another religion. Therefore, for Nupur to clap back at a Muslim panellist denigrating Hinduism by merely quoting the Hadits is necessary. It is necessary because the Islamic community needs to acknowledge, at the very least, that their insult to Hinduism comes from religious hate while the Hindus’ comment on Islam comes from a place of either self-defence or frustration at being subjugated for centuries.
For aeons, we have been told that the onus of maintaining peace, harmony and brotherhood rests on the shoulders of Hindus. And those Hindus, who think merely the fact that Hindus don’t indulge in violence fulfils this responsibility of maintaining brotherhood, are wrong. Hindus are expected to maintain brotherhood by ceding everything they hold sacred and by giving up large parts of their personal liberty. Hindus are not supposed to be offended when their faith is mocked, not supposed to utter a word against Islam, understand that Islam is peaceful and all the violence in the name of Islam does not represent Islam, die with a smile on our faces if we are murdered by Islamists, shut our eyes to facts, give up claims on our places of worship, accept that we are devil worshippers and believe, deep in our heart, that Islamists think of us as brothers and sisters while they hold a sword to our neck.
This cast of mind is so set in the Hindu psyche that any comment on Islam, even innocuous ones, seems “unnecessary” because it would lead to friction, violence and “disruption of harmony” – a harmony that only existed because the victims of Islamist violence and hate, the Hindus, had Stockholm Syndrome and were beaten to believe that accepting that subjugation with a smile on their face was their eternal responsibility.
It is, therefore, not surprising that one of the main criticisms of Nupur Sharma is that her comments were completely “unnecessary”. She, in order to maintain this mythical harmony, must give up her rights, her hurt, her thoughts and essentially, the damn truth because one just never knows what might irk the intolerant minority off.
While Hindus do as Hindus were taught, this trope pushes us down a slope where the slide will ensure that it pulls the entirety of our civilisation down. Sita Ram Goel had said, “To start with, we want to take up what we consider to be its most important contribution, namely, the unravelling of two behaviour patterns – Muslim and National – which collaborated closely for years and precipitated Partition in the final round. The Muslim behaviour pattern was characterized by acrimony, accusations, complaints, demands, denunciations, and street riots. The National behaviour pattern, on the other hand, was characterized by acquiescence, assent, cajolery, concessions, cowardice, self-reproach, and surrender”.
It has been decades since Goel wrote these words and to this day, they hold true. You see, the Muslim community has an insatiable appetite for concessions. You make one, they will demand another. You concede, they will demand 10 more. Soon, you will realise that the Hindu community has given up everything to placate the petulant minority and yet, has been met with nothing but acrimony.
If today, we believe that Nupur Sharma’s statement was “unnecessary” because it ended up provoking the Islamic community, that is a needless concession that the Hindu community is extending to the Islamists. They have the right to be hurt, but not the right to be riotous. The concession accorded makes them believe that their hurt is justified to the extent of giving calls to behead. Now once that concession is extended, their insatiable appetite will raise its ugly head. Once you accept their murderous sentiments, they will claim that your places of worship, your mandirs, are an affront to the Islamic faith. Once you concede that, they will say that you cannot even pray in your home because according to the Islamic community, there is no god but Allah and therefore, the fact that you believe in another god and pray to him is hurting their religious sentiments. The slide would end with them demanding your head on a pike because the very existence of Kafirs offends them.
We must remember that the very basis of the partition was their demand for a ‘land of the pure” untarnished by the existence of Kafirs. When Gandhi allowed the Islamic community to run riots and murder Hindus, it validated their two-nation theory, enough for them to demand the dismemberment of India. When concessions were made to them about the Khilafat movement, terming it a nationalist movement instead of an Islamic one (that held allegiance to the Turkish Caliphate), MK Gandhi emboldened them to set their barbarity in motion and massacre Hindus in accordance with the Ummah they were fighting for.
Hindus today might believe that Nupur Sharma’s comment was “unnecessary”, but if there was a word of caution, it would be this – tomorrow, they will say your very existence, the existence of the dirty Kafir that they are theologically and viscerally meant to hate is an affront to their faith. They won’t only claim this openly, but they will make you guilt-ridden enough to truly believe that your existence is “unnecessary”, impeding their faith, and therefore, you must die with a smile on your face when they come for you.