Every citizen who cherishes the liberal, secular and democratic environment that prevails in India will be horrified by the vicious attack on Hindus and Hinduism by Akbaruddin Owaisi, the leader of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), while addressing meetings in Andhra Pradesh last month. But Owaisi’s violent and perverse comments on adherents of Hinduism will come as no surprise to those who are aware of the malevolent and spiteful attitude of radical Muslim leaders in the sub-continent since 1900 and the pusillanimous approach of the Congress party to the outrageous demands made on behalf of that community before and after independence.

Over the years, one has heard provocative remarks by politicians against religious and caste groups and even women, but the two speeches of Owaisi last month crossed all limits of decency and set a new bench mark for hate speeches. What is shocking is that Owaisi, a child of liberal, democratic India carries the venom of Islamic radicals steeped in illiberal, medieval environments.  But one will stop wondering as to how this can happen if one reflects over the policy of appeasement pursued by India’s oldest political party. The congress party is the source of pseudo-secularism in the country and the fountain head of the culture which equates secularism with anti-Hinduism and thus encourages hotheads like owaisi. The Congress has always followed this policy, and since it headed the interim government prior to independence and has been in power at the Centre for much of the post-independence period, we must hold this party primarily responsible for the deteriorating democratic and secular environment in the country and for the unreasonable demands that the Muslim leadership has been making on the government over the last 70 years.

History tells us how this brand of aggressive communal politics by Muslim leaders since the pre-independence days led to the partition of the country and how Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister, was among the first to promote a pseudo-secular environment. Dr. B.R.Ambedkar, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and many other stalwarts could however foresee that this approach would  jeopardise the future of democratic India, but Nehru failed to listen to reason.

Dr. Ambedkar was one of the first among the country’s top leadership at the time India gained independence, who warned the Congress Party and the country of the terrible consequences of appeasement. Following a critical analysis of the approach of the Congress in 1940 to the demands made by the Muslim community, he said in his book “Thoughts on Pakistan” that the party was adopting a policy that would be ruinous for the country. In this book, which offers the most reasoned and logical dissection of the Hindu-Muslim question, Dr.Ambedkar said “appeasement amounted to offering to buy off the aggressor by conniving at or collaborating with him in the rape, murder and arson on innocent Hindus who happen for the moment to be the victims of his displeasure. On the other hand settlement means laying down the bounds which neither party to it can transgress. Appeasement sets no limits to the demands and aspirations of the aggressor. Settlement does. The second thing the Congress has failed to realize is that the policy of concession has increased their aggressiveness and what is worse, the Muslims interpret these concessions as a sign of defeatism on the part of the Hindus and the absence of will to resist. This policy of appeasement will involve the Hindus in the same fearful situation in which the allies found themselves as a result of the policy of appeasement which they adopted towards Hitler”. 

While many opposed partition, Ambedkar favoured the creation of  a separate Islamic state –Pakistan. This would constitute “a settlement” that could end the Hindu-Muslim problem in the sub-continent.  Since it was believed that 90 per cent of the Muslims in undivided India supported the creation of a separate Muslim state, Dr.Ambedkar presumed that once Pakistan was established, it would result in a fairly comprehensive exchange of population and, “consequently, it will do away with this constant need of appeasement and ought to be welcomed by all those who prefer the peace and tranquility of a settlement to the insecurity of a growing political appetite shown by the Muslims in their dealings with the Hindus”. 

Despite his prescience, Dr.Ambedkar failed to gauge the damage that pseudo-secularism and minorityism would do to the idea of a free, secular, democratic India. As we all know, the comprehensive exchange of population did not happen. Instead the Congress Party began seeing the Muslims as a reliable vote bank.  After Nehru, it was the turn of Indira Gandhi to carry on the policy of appeasement in order to garner Muslim votes. After her, Rajiv Gandhi carried on the family tradition and took that fateful decision to amend the law to upturn the judicial verdict that granted Muslim women the right to seek maintenance under existing provisions of the law. This he did under pressure from the Mullahs and since then Muslim appeasement has become the corner stone of Congress policies and is being emulated by a dozen other political parties, who see the Muslims as a vote bank.  Also, both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had no compunctions in aligning with Muslim communal parties like the Muslim League and Owaisi’s MIM. These developments over the last 20 years has led to increased aggression by Muslim leaders, who are injecting hatred among the Muslim youth towards the Hindus and using every opportunity to disturb communal harmony. That is why Muslim youth senselessly vandalized the Amar Jawan Jyoti in Mumbai and resorted to similar vandalisation in Lucknow and other places.  Now, Akbaruddin Owaisi has come on the scene sprewing hatred towards Hindus. 

In the pre-internet era, it was easy for the law enforcement agencies to prevent the dissemination of information through print or even electronic media by effective application of laws that prohibit such dissemination. But the internet has made enforcement of these provisions extremely difficult because such hate speeches are uploaded by people on platforms like youtube. Also, the more the hate in a speech, the more viral the speech tends to go. Therefore, the damage that Owaisi has done to the democratic, secular fabric cannot be confined to those meeting grounds in Andhra Pradesh.  His malicious and hateful utterances have been accessed by millions of Hindus across the globe.

If the Indian State fails to come down with a heavy hand against persons like Owaisi, one will see steady deterioration in the communal environment leading to bloodshed and great harm to poor innocent people in both communities. In this context, one is reminded of the memorable advice of Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister. Deprecating the British policy of appeasement of Germany before the outbreak of World War II, he said:  “Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival”.

Every Indian citizen who values the liberal, democratic environment must pay heed to Churchill’s words of caution on the issue of appeasement and take the enemies of democracy and our Constitution head on without any loss of time. Otherwise, democratic India will find all the odds stacked against it and very little chance of survival.