ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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When Hate Trumps Tolerance

In India and the US, the government is fertilising the fields of hate.

It was decidedly odd that a government that has remained silent about hate crimes in its own country, India, should demand that the head of another country, the United States (US), denounce such crimes just because the victim was an Indian. On 22 February, Srinivas Kuchibhotla was shot dead in Olathe, Kansas by a white man who shouted at him and another Indian to get out of “our country.” The fact that both were legal immigrants made no difference. For a week there was not a word of condemnation by the US government of what was clearly a hate crime. It was passed off as “disturbing” by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Then on 28 February, in his joint address to the US Congress, President Donald Trump mentioned the Kansas shooting in his opening remarks. The press in India went into overdrive, using adjectives like “slam” and “condemn” to describe his mild comments. All Trump said was that the threats and vandalism against Jewish community centres and Jewish cemeteries, and the shooting in Kansas “remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.” What he did not say or acknowledge was that his administration’s policies and pronouncements, including the ban on immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries that has since been withdrawn because of legal interventions, have created the climate for such hate crimes. Although no country, including the US, is bereft of deep prejudice and anger between social groups, in every country governments can and do exacerbate societal divides by their refusal to acknowledge the fallout of some of their policies.

What is happening today in the US is mirrored in events in India in the last two and a half years. After May 2014, when Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the Lok Sabha elections, we have seen a steady rise of not just hate crimes targeting individuals, but the deliberate and diabolic “othering” of the Muslims in India. From lynchings and accusations of “love jihad,” to Modi’s thinly veiled communal rhetoric during the current election campaign in Uttar Pradesh, there is a visible increase in the sense of insecurity in growing numbers of Muslims about their place in Indian society. This cannot be achieved by the actions of stray individuals who are full of hate, or small groups and organisations that believe in the same Hindutva agenda as the party in power. It happens when the message goes out from the top that actions against the minority in whatever form will not be frowned upon, or disowned, or condemned. After each incident of a hate crime, such as the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, there has been a thunderous silence from the top. Even the little that Trump has said now is a lot more than anything that Modi has uttered after hate crimes.

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Updated On : 28th Aug, 2017
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