India & US are witnessing: Rise of poisonous politics and attacks on minorities

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Screen Shot 2017-06-02 at 4.27.46 pmKanishk Tharoor, in  Hindustan Times, Jun 01, 2017

Trump’s rise has unleashed energies into public life that were previously suppressed. Under the Narendra Modi-led government, a similar majoritarianism is visible.

In the pic: Jeremy Christian, accused of fatally stabbing two Good Samaritans who tried to stop Christian from harassing a pair of women who appeared to be Muslim, shouts during an appearance in Multnomah County Circuit Court in Portland, Oregon, US, May 30, 2017 (Reuters).

(Note: The writer  makes a comparison of violence, terrorist attacks and murder in US under Trump and in India under Modi in recent times. He traces their root cause to Majoritarianism gone wild, due to increasing denial of servile respect and recognition they used to get from minorities in society.

He calls it the poisonous politics of majority to lord over and dominate the minority communities. In the US the group is the white majority losing its dominant position and hold in society to the  hardworking colored sections – Afrians and immigrants. In India it is the Hindu Majority(the RSS and Hindutvawadies) who want to lord over other religious groups like Muslims and Christians, or the upper castes among the Hindus themselves who want to keep the Dlites in their enslaved position in society, like ‘Devadasis’ of old in Temples. 

Frankly speaking, it amounts to asking: “How dare a Dalit lady, cut of the sex organ (penis) of a respected ‘godman in society’ instead of falling down before him to satisfy his sexual urges with full submission? Apply this to all minority communities — both religious and political – and their refusal to submit to any and every unreasonable diktats, even gestures, in every sphere of social activity on the street, in office, in all work places, private or public.

In India a case in point is ‘cow vigilantism’ and ban on cow slaughter under Modi and in US it is murderous attack on blacks, Muslims and foreigners. When harassment of minorities is challenged in court, like visa denial to Muslims, the courts declare the executive orders illegal in US. Similarly when cow slaughter is challenged in India, it is all explained away or different judgments are handed out in different states. But there is no dearth of humans being harassed or killed to save the lives of the ‘holy cow’. Unholy Dalites and minorities are sacrificed with gay abandon in the bargain.

While ever so many social conflicts and protests like ‘beef-fest violence’ is going on, Modi, the supreme commander so to say, keeps his mouth shut instead of James Kottorresorting to his usual extempore eloquence or his regular ‘Man ki bat’ to settle things. We can only hope that India doesn’t become a laughing stock before the comity of nations. President Trump is already becoming one before Germany, France and other countries. james kottoor, editor)

I’m vegetarian, so the pleasures of beef are unfathomable to me. I find infinitely more unfathomable the vindictiveness of the gaurakshaks.

The closest I’ve come to belonging to a mob is when I’ve attended football matches and experienced that rush of dissolving into a collective, into a single, rolling roar. But those passions are light years removed from the perverse sense of righteousness that allowed people to kill Pehlu Khan and to beat, maim, hound, and humiliate Dalits, Muslims, and others in the name of the cow. 

It’s not really about cows. The supposed causes of mob violence are rarely ever their true cause. The once routine lynching of African Americans in the United States (4,743 blacks were lynched between 1882 and 1968) had very little to do with its various alleged reasons: The protection of white women, theft, vagrancy, or (yes, even in the US) the killing of livestock. No, instead, white mobs were putting blacks in “their place”, cowing and terrorising them through the spectacle of brutality.

The cliché has it that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes. One cannot but hear the awful rhyme of history in the words of one gaurakshak in Rajasthan when speaking to a TV news network recently: “Without getting beaten up, people from the minority community will never learn.”

Incidents of mob violence — with the collusion of the State — have dissipated in the US. But as in India, majoritarian energies are on the loose. I use that clunky word “majoritarian” because it captures the poisonous politics at play: A bullying, braying insistence on the supremacy of one larger group over all others. In some parts of American society, there is anger at the changing nature of the country, where whites are gradually losing their age-old position of dominance.

Over the weekend, an avowed white supremacist and “free speech activist” killed two men on a train in the northwestern city of Portland. The victims — who were white men — had tried to intervene as the murderer harassed a young Muslim girl. Muslim organisations in the US have since raised over $500,000 for the victims’ families.

These deaths are only the latest in a spate of Right-wing majoritarian violence. Many Indians know about the bigoted killing of Srinivas Kuchibhotla in February. Here are a few episodes that may be less well known.

Just a few weeks ago in May, a student with far-Right connections at the University of Maryland walked up to Richard Collins III, a black lieutenant in the army, and stabbed him in the chest, killing him. In March, a white man from Baltimore came all the way to New York City with the intent to “kill black men”. He prowled the streets and chose to murder 66 year-old Timothy Caughman with a sword. He has been indicted on terrorism charges. Last November, police in Kansas thwarted a group of far-Right white men that had dubbed itself the “Crusaders” and planned a bomb attack on a housing complex full of Somalis.

Several US law enforcement agencies consider the greatest domestic security threat to come from these far-Right, white supremacist organisations, not Islamist terrorists. And yet in the public messaging of the president, they remain conspicuous in their absence. Though Donald Trump rushes to tweet after any Islamist terrorist attack around the world, he is slow or often unwilling to react to incidents of horrific Right-wing violence. They don’t fit in his narrative of setting the American people against the foreigners and minorities in their midst.

Trump’s rise has unleashed energies into public life that were previously better suppressed, even if they were present. Under the NDA government, a similar trend is sadly visible in India.

The pageantry of the vigilante mob may look very different than the dark hatred of the lone American murderer, but behind both you can find one of the defining forces of our age: Resentful, angry majoritarianism.(Kanishk Tharoor is author of Swimmer Among the Stars: Stories. The views expressed are personal)



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