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Opinion

Arabs Be Damned, It Helps BJP Politically Not To Arrest ‘Fringe’ Nupur

As for the demand of the protestors across India for her arrest, the chances of that happening aren’t very high since it helps the BJP politically to keep the pot boiling.

File photo of BJP rally. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: Our reaction to the massive protests by large groups of Muslims that erupted in several parts of the country after the Friday prayers, all demanding the arrest of suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma for her extremely controversial remarks against Prophet Muhammad, will depend on which side of the political spectrum you are.

Some will pin the blame for the protests on foreign powers – read Pakistan – helped by anti-India forces – read the entire opposition and civil society groups – trying to destabilise India because they can’t tolerate the “huge strides” being made by the country under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Others will accuse the ruling BJP of triggering the protests due to the alleged divide and rule policies, one where the minority Muslims are continuously being demonised and their patriotism always suspect.

Yet another group will suggest that the protests have been engineered by those who want to stall India’s march towards global leadership. And, finally, there is that group which will assure you that the protests will die down but not before they have made Modi stronger and more invincible than ever.

But the truth, one that very few will openly acknowledge or speak up about, is that the protests are a symbol of a deeper malaise, one that has the potential to destabilise, if not completely stall, the India growth story and which reflects the growing fissures and distrust between a growing section of majority Hindu population and the Muslims.

When protesters, many of them clearly minors, throw stones at cops and at the homes and shops of others, all seemingly to seek the arrest of Nupur Sharma, they are unwittingly helping her turn into a cause célèbre.

Wait and in a few days, you will start hearing how an entire community ganged up against a poor Hindu woman (Nupur), thereby ensuring that her political rehabilitation will be swifter than most expect it to be.

But in all this, it is the stand of the Centre – after all, it did claim to many in the international community, most of them in the Middle-East, that strict action has been taken against the “fringe”. But without clarifying that in the Indian context suspending someone from the party (Nupur) or even expelling someone from the party (Naveen Jindal) is of little significance – that will be of real importance.

As for the demand of the protestors across India for her arrest, the chances of that happening aren’t very high since it helps the BJP politically to keep the pot boiling. Don’t forget, the Delhi Police has still not arrested Komal Sharma, the same one who became (in)famous after her brave antics at the JNU campus in January 2020 even though news reports suggest she was questioned.

Visuals of young Muslims boys and men throwing stones at police personnel give the party the chance to push the narrative of hidden conspiracy behind the protests as well as international condemnation.

Wait for sometime and the bulldozers may well be serviced and pressed into action to bring down the houses of some alleged protestors to show to the loyal BJP base how strong their government is.

But in all this, the image of the county, especially in light of a clear absence of the rule of law – when will courts ask why were cases filed only against stone-pelters from one community only while the stone-pelters from the other section were allowed to get away scot-free, is taking a beating.

Silence and inaction will be couter-productive. Modi needs to act against the hatemongers within his own party, even if it comes at some political cost – the stature of Narendra Modi is such that the amount of political capital that he has in his deep pockets is almost limitless.

Leadership of the nation is different from being leader of a political party. The Nupur Sharma episode and the government’s response will show if the two are still refusing to work independently of each other.

For while the ongoing protests will soon die down, the chasm may be widened. Unless, that is, strict action is taken against Nupur and others of her ilk.