In a statement that sent shockwaves across Twitter, indeed, across the country, the BJP handle quoted its president Amit Shah as saying on April 11:
“We will ensure implementation of NRC (National Register of Citizens) in the entire country. We will remove every single infiltrator from the country, except Buddha, Hindus and Sikhs.”
One assumes the BJP meant “Buddhists”, but if the tweet is to be taken at face value, coming as it does from their official Twitter handle, Buddha, at least, can heave a sigh of relief. He is in no immediate danger of being evicted from the country.
Although even if he was, he would surely be welcomed elsewhere. For example, in Thailand or Cambodia or maybe just across Palk strait in Sri Lanka where he has devotees and followers aplenty. Buddha, frankly, would be welcome anywhere in the world. Richard Gere and his fellow Buddhists in Hollywood, for example, would be more than happy to receive him.
But that is a moot point because ‘Buddha’ is in no danger of being deported. Neither are Hindus and Sikhs. One can’t help but wonder, though, why the Jains and Parsis were not included in the safe list. Was it an oversight or have they done something to incur the displeasure of the saffron party?
The BJP’s lip service to inclusion and equality that preceded its run-up to power before the 2014 elections, exemplified in its vacuous slogan, ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’, has now been utterly abandoned. It is now open season on not just Muslims but Christians as well – Islam being ‘the religion of the invaders’ and Christianity ‘the religion of the converters’.
While the last five years have seen a growing number of attacks on Muslims across India, assaults on Christians have also become increasingly vicious, especially in states like Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh. Attacks by right-wing outfits on groups of Christian worshippers have been on the rise since 2014 and seem to peak around Christian holy days like Christmas, Good Friday and Easter.
One wonders, though, why a religious minority that comprises barely 2% of the population of India is such a threat to majoritarian groups that claim to speak for 86% of India’s population. Why do those who have become so plentiful and powerful, especially over the last five years, feel so threatened by a paltry religious minority?
Is it because somewhere deep down, they know that the compassion and inclusion offered by Jesus of Nazareth are much more universally appealing than the chauvinism and bigotry offered by Savarkar and Golwalkar?
Could it be that the empathy and humaneness of Jesus’ “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and the radical forgiveness of his “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which persecute you,” hold deeper resonance than the Sangh’s cold espousal of Hitler and Mussolini?
Could it be that Christ’s message of reconciliation and brotherhood holds out a deeper hope and healing than the Sangh’s Nietzsche-ian, nationalistic and militaristic philosophies?
Could it be that the human heart yearns for peace and harmony much more than it thrives on strife and conflict?
While the BJP is going all out to separate ‘Buddha’, Hindus and Sikhs from their Christian and Muslim peers by promising them a place in ‘New India’, there are those like Avtar Singh who responded to the BJP’s threat by saying:
Kindly don’t use Sikhs for your votes… we will be happy if you remove “Sikhs” from your tweet… muslims are our brothers as much as Hindus or other religions.”
Perhaps the BJP has realised that its days in power are numbered and that there are many, many more like Avtar Singh who are rising up to fight its divisive agenda. Perhaps that is why there is a clear and distinct undertone of panic under the barrage of obnoxious threats that several BJP leaders have issued to voters over the last few days.
Perhaps the BJP has realised that despite its best efforts, the power of love is slowly but surely rising up against the love of power and posing a clear and direct challenge to its dominion of hate. In the words of John, one of Jesus’ disciples who perhaps best captured the essence of his master’s teachings:
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (I John 4)
Perhaps the saffron party has realised that Buddha, Sikhs and Hindus are standing with their fellow human beings in their hour of need.
Rohit Kumar is an educator with a background in positive psychology and psychometrics. He works with high school students on emotional intelligence and adolescent issues to help make schools bullying-free zones.