Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma gives hate speeches in poll bound Karnataka, indulges in a divisive diatribe According to the Assam CM, if BJP comes to power the new India will have more Ram Janmabhoomis, more temples, and no madrassas
21, Mar 2023 | CJP Team
Every few years, the BJP’s poll machine and hard Hindutva data bank throw up newer and newer faces and voices used for a singular purpose, consolidation of hate and divisive sentiments within the populace, preparing to face an election, state or national. With the opposition’s discourse in seeming disarray, scattered over a leadership that is unable to convey grit, focus and resolve, what an already compliant media then projects is just and only this, one side of a sordid electoral discourse and story.
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Meet the new poster boy of hard Hindutva, Himanta Biswa Sarma, former Congressman till 2014, with a doctoral thesis to his credit, who was chosen by two powerful men in New Delhi to oust the Bharatiya Janata Party’s first chief minister from Assam, Sarbando Sonowal in May 2021. Since his being catapulted to the most powerful post in the north eastern state that returned his party to power in the year he was brought in, Sarma has been sharply aggressive in his home state, especially targeting the linguistic and religious minorities with policies and diatribes. His services have also been garnered to other election bound states, he was flown into Gujarat in October 2022 where controversial speeches shopped him headlines in all “national” media; now poll-bound Karnataka where the BJP faces a tougher electoral contest is his next port of call.
Meet Assam’s CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, a graduate from the state’s prestigious Cotton University that has given the state seven chief ministers, to date. Undoubtedly part of the Assamese elite, the man has a political friend-cum-foe in Badruddin Ajmal from the AIUDUF, Member of Parliament from Dhubri district who’s brazenly communal statements come in handy for Sarma’s amplified rebuttals. Sarma has now taken to the state of Karnataka to further BJP’s overtly majoritarian agenda. In the three weeks of March 2023, Sarma has dotted the state’s political landscape, more often than not delivering several speeches and making derogatory comments on the Muslim community. The state of Karnataka is on his party’s radar now since the Karnataka elections are scheduled for May 2023. The southern state, declared the party’s ‘gateway to south India’ by the late mastercraftsman for the party, lawyer turned politician, Arun Jaitley, Karnataka has seen a grisly display of hate speech and hate crimes against religious minorities, especially the Muslim community.
Sarma joins the likes of fire-splitting Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief minister, Ajay Bisht aka Adityanath, the fire-spitting chief minister (CM) of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh (UP) That the two top men in the job have now groomed their lieutenants in the propaganda stakes bodes ill for the health of India’s democracy.
Hate mine field in Karnataka a la Sarma
In one instance, while Sarma was addressing a public meeting in Kanakagiri, Karnataka, Sarma said that “We have to bring the Bharatiya Janata Party to power here. We do not need Babri Masjid anymore, we want Ram Janmabhoomi.” To convince people to vote for BJP in the upcoming elections, Sarma thought it apt to provoke and instigate people on the demolition of Babri Masjid, thus implying that voting for BJP will be opting for the blood shed of the Muslim minority.
The video of the said speech can be viewed here:
On March 16, a rally was organised in Belagavi, Karnataka. At the rally too, Sarma had given a hate speech, indulging in a communal diatribe against the Muslim community, their culture and traditions. At the rally, he made claims that till now he has shut down 600 madrassas, but soon all madrassas in Assam will be shut down. He further said that he wants to take this step because there is a need for schools, colleges in the country.
He said, “I am from a state like Assam. I have come here every day with people from Bangladesh to take over our civilisation and culture. They pose a threat. The TV anchor told me that you have closed 600 madrasas. What is your intention? I said I have closed 600 madrasas now but my intention is that all madrasas have to be closed. We don’t need madrasas, we need schools, colleges and universities to become doctors, engineers. There is no need for madrasas in new India.”
This targeted diatribe against Madrassas was first launched in fact by Sarma’s big brother in the propaganda stakes, Adityanath. Launching a state driven campaign selectively targeting some of these religio-social schools some of whom undoubtedly have an outdated and obsolete curriculum, Adityanath, riding on the backs of the weaponsied mechanism of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) headed by Priyank Kanoongo, had questioned the admission of non-Muslim students to these schools. This when it is well known that intellectual stalwarts like Munsi Premchand, Raja Ram Mohan Roy and India’s first Presient, Rajendra Prasad also studied in them. Since the BJP came to power, the party repealed the law related to state funding of the provincial madrassas which are in effect government schools.
Though the BJP-led government last year had shut down close to 600 state-run madrasas, but had to spare those managed by private organisations, since Sarma became the CM of Assam, he has repeatedly otherised and harassed the Muslim community living there, referring to them as “encroachers” or “Bangaldeshis”. He has also continuously spread misinformation regarding the number of Muslims living in Assam, used the Foreigner Tribunals to declare Muslims born and brought up in India as suspected foreigners, and left out the Muslim from the schemes being implemented.
Continuing with his speech in Karnataka in Belagavi on March 16, Sarma also said that “At one point of time, our Delhi king talked about demolishing the temple. Today, under PM Modi’s rule, we are talking about temple construction.” Through these words Sarma’s metamorphosis from an elite politician to one who now is part and even leads the aggressive hate of the Hindutva camp is complete. Another poster boy for the Hindu Rashtra project has been born.
Following the template followed by the country’s prime minister and Home Minister, Sarma, in his speech also attacked the opposition Congress party, and said, “This is new India whose economy is stronger than Britain’s, which can make its own vaccine. Today, the Congress is working to weaken this new India. Just like the Mughals were weakening India earlier, the Congress is the Mughal of today.”
Through this, Sarma referred to the speech given by Rahul Gandhi at Cambridge wherein he had said that the judiciary and other functionaries are on the verge of losing their independence.
He had further said that “There are many people in our country who proudly say they are Muslim, Christian and I have no problem with that but we need a person who can proudly say that I am a Hindu. India needs such a person today.” The BJP leaders have been focusing on furthering this division that exists between the majority and minority community, to stroke as many egos of the majority community that they can and pocket their votes.
Sarma continued in the same vein, providing a distorted view of Indian history, and said, “Congress is today’s new Mughals. Why do they object to Ram Mandir? Are they Mughal children? Why do they support Babri Masjid but never speak in favour of Ram Mandir”. He blamed the Congress party and “communist” historians for exaggerating the rule of “Mughals” such as Aurangzeb and Babur, and asserted that the new India will be stronger based on the values of Sanatan dharma and Shivaji Maharaj. He claimed that the existing history was inaccurate and that it needed to be rewritten.
According to him, the history of India belongs only to leaders such as Chhatrapati Shivaji and Guru Gobind Singh. He also made false promises like the new India’s accomplishments also include its economic rise, surpassing the United Kingdom, its self-reliance in vaccine manufacturing, and conducting surgical strikes in Pakistan among other things.
These words, uttered by Sarma, are no longer surprising. These same anti-Muslim sentiments have been shared by him though actions and words before too, and echoed by his peers. Even before the Belagavi speech, on March 15, during the ongoing parliamentary session, Sarma had referred to Hindus as “our people” while countering allegations that the state police’s recent crackdown on child marriages was targeted at Muslims.
History of Constitutional Violations, 2021, 2022
Assam in 2021-2023 and then Gujarat in 2022 saw the previous similar trajectory of Sarma. In the first year since his anointing as chosen poster boy from Delhi, Sarma got into the act; he flirted with hate, delivered sharply polarising speeches but, predictably escaped more than a mild censure from the Election Commission that has let off even India’s home minister earlier. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma was let off similarly with “just a warning” asking him to exercise restraint while campaigning. Five constituencies in Assam are all set for by-polls on October 30. These are: Bhapanipur, Gossaigaon, Mariani, Tamulpur and Thowra.
During campaigning in these constituencies, Sarma had been announcing a slew of sops such as developmental projects, loan waiver schemes etc., something that is a violation of the Election Commission of India’s Model Code of Conduct (MCC). Under the rules for the Party in Power, point 6 says:
“From the time elections are announced by Commission, Ministers and other authorities shall not –
(a) announce any financial grants in any form or promises thereof; or
(b) (except civil servants) lay foundation stones etc. of projects or schemes of any kind; or
(c) make any promise of construction of roads, provision of drinking water facilities etc.; or
(d) make any ad-hoc appointments in Government, Public Undertakings etc. which may have the effect of influencing the voters in favour of the party in power.”
Only after two complaints lodged by the Congress party in opposition did the EC even act. Finally, assessing that it was ““of the considered view that Himanta Biswa Sarma, Star Campaigner for the Bharatiya Janata Party has acted in contravention to the spirit of the advisory/instruction issued by the Commission”. However, it let off Sarma with just a mild rap on the knuckles, asking him to exercise restraint, instead of barring him from campaigning! The EC said, “The Commission issues warning to him to be more careful and exercise restraint in future and strictly follow the provisions Model Code of Conduct while making public utterances.”
The EC’s order may be read here:
This was arguably a very mild reprimand given that during the Assembly elections held earlier in 2021, the Election Commission of India (ECI) barred Sarma from campaigning for 48 hours after it emerged that he had allegedly said that Molihary, a Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) leader will go to jail if he engages in extremist activity, and that the case was being given to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
All the recent news that has been reported from Assam under the rule of Himanta Biswa Sarma are just disguised ways of attacking the Muslims population living in Assam. From launching a state-wide police investigation into child-marriages, to the mass eviction drives and anti-encroachment drives, no stone has been left unturned to target the Muslim community.
Come the assembly polls in Gujarat a year later and Sarma was again commandeered into action. The gruesome murder of Shraddha Walkar by her boyfriend, Aaftab Poonawala, a crime that has received selectively prominent news coverage in the past week, CM of Assam, BJP leader Himanto Biswa Sarma, while campaigning in Kutch for the forthcoming Gujarat Assembly elections, declared that “if the country did not elect a strong leader like Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2024, a monster like Aftab, who hacked his partner’s body into pieces and was also a perpetrator of ‘love jihad’, would rise up in every city of the country.” In this particular instance, the boyfriend and girlfriend were living together as a couple, and got into a fight. As a result of it, the boyfriend allegedly strangled the girl and later chopped up her body into 35 pieces. Though the gruesome murder was committed reportedly on or around May 18, 2022, the arrest of Aftab Poonawala was made close to six months later on November 12, 2022, providing convenient fodder to the fire-eaters within the current ruling regime.
Sarma made these brazen claims, unquestioned by a complaint media that refused to question the fact that the state he leads, Assam, is among the five worst when it comes to domestic violence, the aggressive chief minister, uses the murder of Shraddha Walkar to stigmatise interfaith relationships, selectively pinpointing the gruesome murder of Shraddha Walkar by her boyfriend, Aaftab
As clearly countered by Ms Brinda Karat, senior leader of the CPI-M in a piece for NDTV, Mr Sarma is chief minister of a state where the extent of domestic violence against women according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) is among the five worst states in the country. “It is among the states where there is underreporting of such violence. It is among the states where justification of domestic violence is also high. Has he ever addressed this issue either through public statements or government policy? The NFHS -5 reveals the startling figure in its 2021 report that one-third of women in India experienced domestic violence and/or sexual violence. What is even more disturbing is that 77 percent did not report the issue.”
Over the past six months, since the ghastly Aftab crime on Shraddha, extreme right wing trolls and their mentors in the political establishment have been single-handedly playing up this instance of brute intimate partner violence, because it involves a Muslim male and a Hindu woman with Maharashtra –the state that is home to the victim Shraddha Walkar’s family—seeing an aggressive hate filled campaign against all Muslims in general.
In November 2022, while campaigning for his party, the BJP in Surat, Gujarat, Sarma exhorted, “Vote for Modi – without a strong leader in the country, murderers like Aftab will emerge in every city, and we will not be able to safeguard our society.” As pointed out by Ms Brinda Karat, senior leader of the CPI-M in a piece for NDTV, Mr Sarma is chief minister of a state where the extent of domestic violence against women according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) is among the five worst states in the country. “It is among the states where there is underreporting of such violence. It is among the states where justification of domestic violence is also high. Has he ever addressed this issue either through public statements or government policy? The NFHS-5 reveals the startling figure in its 2021 report that one-third of women in India experienced domestic violence and/or sexual violence. What is even more disturbing is that 77 percent did not report the issue.”
Sarma, in a clear-cut bid to polarise votes in the upcoming Gujarat state elections, has thrown reason and constitutional obligations to the winds.
As analysed by Citizens for Justice and Peace (cjp.org.in) in this hate buster, 80 percent of inter-faith marriages do not end up in murder! Besides, as pointed out by Ms Karat, “ The perpetrator of a crime against a woman is a criminal to be punished whether his name is Aftab or Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhyesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt and Ramesh Chandana – the rapists and murderers in the Bilkis Bano case; or Sandeep, Ramu, Lavkush and Ravi, the rapists and killers of the young Dalit woman in Hathras. Communalising a crime is an assault on the legal framework of India.”
That Sarma’s diatribes have union govern sanction is clear from this. Besides Sarma, Kaushal Kishore, Minister of State for the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in the Modi Government, is reported to have said “Educated girls should not get into such relationships. They should learn from such incidents. They should stay with someone with the approval of their parents – and register the relationship.” Clearly Sarma and Kishore share a mind-set that is endorsed by the top political leadership in the country given the stony silence from the top!
Mr Sarma.in a clear-cut bid to polarise votes first in his home state of Assam, then in the December 2022 Gujarat state assembly elections, and now Karnataka in 2023 has thrown reason and caution to the winds. Clearly BJP’s time-tested formula that the party believes to be its winning card is hate and polarisation, with other issues like “development under the big leader” just the icing on a cynically constructed cake.
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