Double Standards: Arrest for Owaisi, Impunity for Ramdev

Published on: April 5, 2016

Serious questions arise for Indian Law Enforcement Agencies: Akbar Owaisi was jailed for hate speech in 2013; why does Baba Ramdev enjoy impunity?




Provoking Mass murder as the New Normal

On Sunday, April 3, yoga guru Baba Ramdev, was addressing a sadhbavana, peace and understanding rally (sic) organised by none less than the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Haryana. The perpetrated aim of the function was to bring back peace after the brutal Jat reservation riots in February. But for Ramdev (and the RSS?) the agenda clearly appeared to be something else.

Instead of focussing on peace, he seemed to hint at mass murder and the decapitation of lakhs of people who refuse to say “Bharat Mata ki jai”.

“Some person wears a cap and stands up,” began Ramdev referring to Muslims. “He says I will not say 'Bharat Mata ki jai' even if you decapitate me. This country has a law, otherwise let alone one, we can behead lakhs. But we respect this country’s law. If somebody stands up and speaks like this, that gives strength to hooligans. We respect this country’s law and Constitution. Otherwise if anybody disrespects Bharat Mata, we have the capability of beheading not one but thousands and lakhs.”

Many Indians, also including Muslims and other minority groups that believe in monotheism have pointed out that they can be nationalistic without invoking India as a goddess.

It is not a coincidence surely that Ramdev's comments came just a day after Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavais demanded Indians who woudn't say "Bharat Mata ki jai" to be expelled from the country.

Be it Ramdev or Phadnavis, the supremacist religious nationalism of the demand that all Indian chant “Bharat Mata ki jai” as a proof of their patriotism is a convenient smokescreen to push the hardline politics of the RSS not to mention divert ‘national’ attention from the BJP’s massive failures in governance.

Ramdev’s show took place in Haryana. Haryana (not far from the capital) in February 2016 was the seat of brute violence unleashed by the Jats pressing for reservations, protests that drew a relatively benign response from the police that in nearby Delhi was being used against students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Ramdev’s call to divert Haryana’s attention to those who refuse to chant a slogan is a poor cover for the BJP’s complete faiure to control the terrible violence during the recent agitation for reservations by Jats. So scandalous was the official response that the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Haryana meekly agreed to be arm-twisted into actually awarding the quota. In Maharashtra, Fadnavis's rhetoric is a cynical attempt to distract attention from the crushing drought in the state.

In 2013, Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen legislator Akbaruddin Owaisi was arrested for hate speech. Were the same standards applied to Baba Ramdev, the police would be pursuing him with equal vigour. But given the signals to law enforcement agencies across the country, dictated by forces that rule who believe not only in Constitutional rights but a supremacist majoritarianism, that seems an unlikely prospect.

Watch the video of Ramdev admitting that India’s laws prevent him from beheading the "lakhs" of people who refuse to say Bharat Mata ki Jai. How Bharat Mata” became the code word for a theocratic Hindu state.