June 15, 2024

Moon Desk: As I scrolled through my social media feed, I watched an endearing video of Prime Minister Narendra Modi listening intently while a Greek child sang in Hindi. His face beamed with joy and pride as he interacted with the little girl. Little did she know that thousands of miles away, in a remote village in Uttar Pradesh, a schoolboy trembled as his teacher egged his classmates to slap him. Though his face was streaked with tears, the teacher taunted a classmate for not raining blows hard enough.

That the boy being slapped was Muslim and that the teacher made a sweeping, derogatory reference to Muslims, only added to the horrendous nature of  the video seen on social media yesterday.

Amidst public outrage, the police visited the school in Muzzafarnagar district and said it would take appropriate action. Of course, had the victim been a Hindu and the perpetrator a Muslim, the teacher would have been promptly arrested and their home bulldozed by an eager state administration.

The fact that the boy’s father was too scared or weary to initiate action is emblematic of the eroding trust between minorities and the legal institutions responsible for protecting them. He took the only recourse available by forbidding his son to attend school. Perhaps this is the result that those consumed with the bigotry of the Sangh parivar hoped for. This is precisely what happened after the ‘hijab controversy’ in Karnataka that led to many Muslim families discontinuing their daughters’ education.

The Modi government at the Centre has already cancelled many of the scholarships earmarked for minorities – a crucial step in the path to their empowerment – but it is clear that the flames of hatred the Bharatiya Janata Party has actively fanned since 2014 are now threatening to singe the safe sanctuary of our schools.

As if engineered riots weren’t enough, the BJP’s modus operandi to sow division now includes propaganda through movies steeped in disinformation and demonisation of Muslims. Otherwise what explains a slew of anti-Muslim movies like The Kashmir files, 72 Hoorain and Kerala Story being promoted by the party’s top brass? The Kashmir Files, which vilified all Kashmiri Muslims, was recently awarded a prestigious official prize for ‘national integration’!

In the country we have become, shocking incidents against minorities which should have been a matter of shame for everyone are instead being glorified and turned into symbols of national pride.

Unfortunately, as we approach next year’s general election, the ruling party’s campaign will only encourage such incidents which are a blot on the collective conscious of a nation that was once led by Gandhiji.

Never had I imagined that the poison spewed by BJP would singe even children. While the dogged determination of our scientists ensured India landed successfully on the moon, our vitriolic politicians are hell bent on taking us back to the dark ages.

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