Inside the ‘heartland’ of hate speeches

Jammu: Akhil Bharatiya Sant Samiti chief Jagadguru Hansdevacharya and others during ‘Dharma Sabha’, to press for the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, in Jammu, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018. (PTI Photo)(PTI12_16_2018_000101B)

After RSS sword rallies and ‘identify and kill’ campaign against Rohingya Muslims, some elements are now turning Jammu into the mainstay of hate speeches. These fringe activities taking place right under the nose of governor’s administration remind many of the 1947 fall.

By Mehtab Hussain

Perhaps, fautlines were never so obvious in Jammu, as they are now. Following a series of assaults on cattle hoarders and Muslim gypsies, the case of Kathua rape and murder case involving an eight-year-old Muslim nomad girl only sharpened the polarised picture of the province. The communal posturing of rightwing leaders, activists and trade body has further bared the fringe mindset in state’s winter capital.

Now, in the run-up to 2019 elections, Jammu has become boondocks of hate speeches. And in the name of action, Governor Satya Pal Malik’s administration is simply shrugging off the fringe, saying, “let us analyse the speech content first, before taking a call on it.”

It’s like playing Gandhi’s three monkeys over the naked crime, many say, while tracing these emboldening fringe activities with Narendra Modi’s December 2013 Lalkar rally in Jammu. It’s believed that the event acted as a communal sparkplug, which ended up polarising the region and gave a sweeping victory to BJP from Jammu in 2104 parliamentary and assembly elections.

Since then, the fringe is on rise. And one of its featuresis to create demographic change fears in the region.

This past November, a seminar was conducted in Jammu under the banner of IkkJutt, chaired by the advocate-activist Ankur Sharma, known for his communal bile.

Besides provocative appeals, Hindus were advised not to sell or rent their lands, residential houses or shops to Muslims. The speakers of the seminar claimed that purchase of land and houses by Muslims is part of a deep conspiracy. They also claimed that 8-year-old girl in Kathua was killed by Muslims themselves!

Former BJP leader and History professor Hari Om said that Muslim population is fast growing in Jammu. “This is to create Kashmir like situation in Jammu,” he said. “There were three Muslim localities with three Masjids in Jammu in 1994. Today there are 42 Muslim localities. You can’t go there.”

What’s otherwise a common feature of urbanisation across the world is being confused with demographic changes, only to rouse passions and hate, in Jammu. And lately, when PDP’s Firdous Tak tried to bat for the unity, amid divisive designs in Jammu, he was nearly lynched.

That ‘communal’ seminar in Jammuwas also addressed by the notorious fringe Indian academician Madhu Kishwar, who in her typical ‘tunnel’ understanding said that plans are underway to make Jammu a Muslim majority province. “It needs to be stopped,” she said. “People of a particular community are being legally invited to the province and are permitted to occupy the land as much as they wish.”

But it was not for the first time when Jammu witnessed anything like this. In past, it had witnessed hate speeches being delivered in a free-spirited manner.

On 21 May 2017, a communal outfit of migrant Kashmiri Pandits called Panun Kashmir organised a seminar on “Betrayal of Jammu”, in state’s winter capital. The panellists raked many issues, including Pakistan, Tribal invasion, Jihad, Wahhabism, Pan-Islamism and even Syed Ali Geelani.

Interestingly, they termed the caged Hurriyat patriarch as a “troublemaker in Jammu”.

In his keynote address, Ankur Sharma urged the Jammuites to rise up and get ready for any sacrifice to protect their land, culture and heritage.

“The demographic change of Jammu is being brought about by a multi-pronged strategy which includes well funded campaign of purchase of land, fraudulent allotments of the forest and state land through the Roshni Act, settlement of Illegal Rohingya and Bangladeshi Muslims, induced Muslim Migration from Kashmir and fraudulent census operations,” Sharma said.

Before that seminar, however, Jammu had witnessed a concerted campaign against Rohingya Muslims. Apart from BJP and Panthers party, even Jammu trade chamber called for the “identify and kill” campaign against the ethnic-cleansing battered community.

These developments took place when bulldozers and JCBs were tearing down the Muslim settlements in many parts of Jammu. Recently, when bulldozers again ran to demolish Muslim properties in the province, it created new fears in Jammu minority, which once was the majority there.

“Communalism is a reality in Jammu region,” says Masood Choudhary, ex-DGP. “Kathua, Samba and Jammu have negligible Gujjar population yet an unfounded fear of demographic change is being created.”

Amid these ‘selective’ demolition drives, many wonder about the illegal settlements housing lakhs of Hindu refugees from West Pakistan in security-sensitive spots in Jammu. While efforts are being made to streamline them in an open violation to JK’s special status, the hate speeches against Muslims continue to emanate from Jammu.

On 16 December 2018, Mahant Dinesh Bharati, a prominent face of the 2008 Amarnath agitation, delivered another hate speech in Jammu. His audience included VHP and RSS leaders on stage and Jammu and Kashmir BJP president Ravinder Raina and three former state BJP ministers—including the former shamed and sacked ‘pro-rapist’ minister Chander Prakash Ganga—in the audience.

Addressing the dharam sabha organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Jammu, Bharati said, no Hindu will be able to become the prime minister in 2039.

“I have a request,” he addressed the sabha. “Each Hindu should have five children and weapons should be given to all five children and they should take a pledge that if anybody looked at them with evil intentions, they will cut out their eyes.”

Head of the Akhil Bharatiya Sant Samiti, an umbrella body of Hindu seers, Swami Hansdevacharya Maharaj openly thanked JK Governor, Satya Pal Malik “for not allowing the pro-terrorist government to form in state”.

The chief guest Hansdevacharya was referring to governor Malik’s eleventh-hour decision to dissolve assembly on November 21 when Grand Alliance and Sajjad Lone competed to stake claim on government formation in JK.

“People ask where are ‘ache din’? It was only possible to hold this rally under the ‘ache din’,” Hansdevacharya addressed the gathering. “The Army is killing stone-pelters in Kashmir and that is ‘ache din’.”

He didn’t stop there.

“People ask why is there a delay in Ram Mandir’s reconstruction,” he continued. “Tell me, does a mandir have to be constructed or some dargah? You put a chadar on a dead dog and it becomes a dargah. We have to construct a mandir, not some slum hut.”

The vitriolic content of these hate speeches reminded many of the bloodcurdling fall of 1947, when the similar hate speeches reverberated in Jammu. At the heart of those communal speeches, were people like Rajguru Swami Sant Dev.

Sant Dev was Hari Singh’s wife, Tara Devi’s guru. But at the same time, he was a rabid communalist, accused of playing rabble-rouser in run-up to the least reported modern day genocide at Jammu, massacring 2.3 lakh Muslims.

As Rajguru, Sant Dev was accommodated in the Cheshmashahi Guset House by the Maharaja in 1946, when communal designs had started unfolding in the state. Soon as the communalist elements driven by the RSS ideology, Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan and the Maharaja’s troops set the stage for the kill in Jammu, Sant Dev was seen influencing many top appointments in Maharaja’s administration. Many of those appointees would later preside over the carnage.

Governor Chet Ram Chopra and DIG Police Bakhshi Udhay were one of those appointees, who inspired and abetted the violence.

Now, before the role of present day hate speech mongers inspires any violence, governor Malik is expected to crack a whip on the fringe elements in Jammu. If he fails to act, then parallels will be drawn between him and Governor Chet Ram Chopra. And in that case, the faultines will only turn fatal.

This story first appeared in January 2019 Print Issue of The Indus Post.


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