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Foreign policy crisis: Has BJP 'woken up' to dangers of fostering anti-minority polity?

By Bharat Dogra* 
It has taken a major foreign relations crisis to erupt for the BJP and the wider Sangh Parivar to wake up, hopefully, to the dangers of fostering widespread attitudes of hostility towards minorities, mainly Muslims but also others in some contexts. However even at a time when the foreign relations aspects are in the forefront, it is important to assert that the harm done by such attitudes to national integration is even more serious than the terrible damage inflicted on foreign relations.
Certainly what is being questioned is not just any one-time outburst by any ‘fringe elements’. The list of very damaging statements by those occupying very important positions either in the BJP or in a number of right-wing, communal organizations which often collaborate with the BJP and its various wings is a long one. 
Was suitable action taken against them? The record of inaction or inadequate action against others found to be indulging in statements of hatred, insults and threats, or even in actual attacks on innocent persons, is even more widespread. 
Certainly minorities have been feeling less secure during the last 8 years or so, in terms of life, livelihoods, travel and even in terms of their habits of food and dress being questioned increasingly and unnecessarily. As though in organized, planned ways, entirely avoidable controversies over places of worship are being spread rapidly.
Surely all this has caused very grave damage to national unity and national integration. Then why has the top leadership of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar done so little to check this, to punish the guilty and to initiate self-reform efforts to help their cadres and supporters to get rid of those false myths and embedded attitudes based on them which result in periodic outbursts of insults and threats.
This is a path which will only weaken India socially, culturally, economically. A different path is certainly available, the path shown by Sufi and Bhakti movements and based on inter-faith harmony and unity. 
The most noble among them, great saints like Sant Kabir, called upon both Hindus and Muslims to stop quarrelling and live with mutual love and understanding, following an ethical way of life. These were the spiritual leaders who attracted the most followers and had the most durable impact.
Again during the freedom movement the leaders who got the greatest following were those who believed very firmly in inter-faith harmony and national unity -- leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Badshah Khan, Maulana Azad, Shahid Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose. These leaders differed on some matters but they were completely united on inter-faith harmony based on equality. 
On the other hand, those with narrow agenda of bigotry and communalism never got much support from people till they were propped up by colonial authorities to get into positions of authority at a time when genuine leaders of people had been jailed and hence could no longer guide people . In these circumstances the colonial rulers and communal, fanatic persons got together to divide the country and people.
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After partition of the country Pakistan by and large followed the path of sectarianism and oppression of minorities. India followed the noble path of secularism and inter-faith harmony with equality of people of all religions firmly established by the Constitution of India. However some narrow-minded sectarian and fanatic groups and even political parties continued to exist in India, catering to people of different religions. 
As long as the union government was secular and promoted inter-faith harmony, these groups and parties could not do much harm although they continued to be involved in inciting riots from time to time and also kept spreading their ideology of sectarianism in highly organized ways with continuity, waiting for their big time.
List of very damaging statements by those occupying very important positions either in BJP or in  right-wing which collaborate with BJP is long
The right-wing BJP first formed its union government under a moderate leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the harm done to secularism and inter-faith harmony was more restrained at that time. However the BJP national election victories in 2014 and 2019 established and stabilized a regime that was willing to change the post-independence consensus in India on inter-faith harmony, equality of all religions, equal respect for all religions and secularism, all of this supported firmly by the constitution.
The sectarian agenda of the BJP was further strengthened by picking provincial leaders in terms of their solid support for this. Hence during the last eight years the agenda of sectarianism has received solid state support like never before and it is in this larger framework that anti-minority statements and threats of politically powerful persons have been heard much more frequently and minorities have started feeling much less secure than before.
Therefore it was only a matter of time for this to blow up someday in a major foreign relations crisis as well. While diplomats engage in a damage control exercise, they should also inform their government in all sincerity that its sectarian agenda is resulting in very serious problems for the wider causes of India at the international level.
India’s economic progress can also best take place in conditions of internal peace and stability as well as international goodwill. People can contribute best to their country when they are assured of equal opportunity and basic security of their families and wider communities. 
From all points of view it is best for the BJP and the wider Sangh Parivar to move towards a much more inclusive agenda based on much higher accommodation of the constitutional precepts of equality of all religions, equal opportunities and equally secure conditions of people of all religions, equal dignity of people of all communities.
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. Recent books include ’A Day in 2071’, ‘Man over Machine’ and ‘Planet in Peril’



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