As a Hindu, I can totally relate to Rahul Gandhi’s anguish expressed in his inaugural speech in Parliament on July 1 that some of those who engage in violence and are guilty of hate speech are proudly calling themselves Hindu. I too am greatly troubled by the Sangh Parivar’s frequent claim to be speaking for all Hindus. They most certainly do not.

Clearly, Gandhi was addressing the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok Sabha when he accused them of not being real Hindus, as they “did not stand with the truth”. No one heard him accuse the entire Hindu society of being violent, until Prime Minister Narendra Modi falsely claimed that he had.

The truth is that anyone who has been paying attention to Gandhi’s speeches, or has watched his empathetic interactions with people from all walks of India during his Bharat Jodo Yatra, know exactly what he meant in his speech: Too much hate and violence has been let loose by the BJP and its ideological siblings in the name of all Hindus.

There was no better vindication of what Gandhi had just said about BJP’s uneasy relationship with the truth than Modi’s blatant twisting of his words to claim that he was vilifying all Hindus.

But then, Modi is a master at the art of twisting facts. When he was chief minister of Gujarat, Modi used to incite crowds during poll campaigns by falsely declaring that his critics were defaming five crore Gujaratis. The fact that no one was blaming all Gujaratis for the 2002 violence seemed to matter little. Repeated often enough, Modi’s fictional narrative stuck all the way to his ascent in Delhi.

Author and activist Mukul Dube wrote at the time in The Path of the Parivar: Articles on Gujarat and Hindutva:

“The genius of the ‘honour of Gujarat’ argument is that it deftly places the ordinary, peaceable Hindus of the state into the same logical category as the monsters who committed unspeakable crimes and their instigators…The guilt of a relatively small pack of criminals is spread widely and thereby dissipated. People who would never dream of killing or raping other humans, are told in perfervid language that they have been accused of just these violations – and believing this, they react with outrage.”

Modi’s reaction to Gandhi’s Parliament speech, in my view, was a carbon copy of his Gujarat strategy: make every Hindu feel personally attacked by the opposition parties – in this case, by Gandhi – by whatever means necessary.

All that aside, a man who just a few weeks back had labeled all 200 million Muslims as infiltrators has no moral credibility to complain that Gandhi was negatively stereotyping all Hindus.

Follow the leader

Home Minister Amit Shah was quick to double down on Modi’s accusation: “The Leader of Opposition has categorically said that those who call themselves Hindu talk of violence and do violence. He doesn’t know that crores of people proudly call themselves Hindu. Connecting violence with any religion is wrong. He should apologise.”

Who can disagree with the sentiment that “connecting violence with any religion is wrong”? However, when such a noble thought comes from the lips of a person known for his notorious record of hate speech against Muslims, it strains credulity.

But then, Shah has had no compunctions about promoting disinformation. Five years ago, he gave a pep talkBJP’s “IT Cell”, as the party’s propaganda unit is called, admiring their skill in making all sorts of messages go viral: “We are capable of delivering any message we want to the public, whether sweet or sour, true or fake.”

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was one of the first to share a misleading clipped video of Gandhi’s speech, tripling down on Modi’s false claim that Rahul had labeled all Hindus as violent: “Sheer audacity of LoP @RahulGandhi to call everyone who calls himself Hindu as “hinsak”/violent shows @INCIndia’s hatred and contempt towards Hindus…”

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath’s response to Rahul was pure hyperbole: “Hindu is synonymous with tolerance, generosity and gratitude. We are proud that we are Hindus!...You should apologise to crores of Hindus of the world Rahul ji! Today you have not hurt a community but the soul of Mother India.”

Tolerance and generosity are not exactly virtues for which Adityanath is known. His actions against Muslims, including bulldozing homes without any due process, have come to epitomise the worst of India today. I am embarrassed that he wears the saffron garments of a Hindu monk even as he leads the politics of “Muslim effacement” in his state.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was not too far behind the others in the chorus of Amens to Modi’s false charge against Rahul: “This is now the Leader of Opposition. Who attacks Hindus while professing brotherhood to all…”

In the event, it’s the height of hypocrisy to demand that Rahul apologise for something he did not say in his Parliament speech. If there is anyone who needs to apologise to all Hindus for deliberately twisting Gandhi’s words, and causing violence in some parts of the country, they are the BJP luminaries who unquestioningly followed the prime minister in abusing the Congress leader.

‘Not in our name’

There were times when Indians in the diaspora were mere spectators and admirers of Indian democracy at work. But that changed as soon as the BJP began to co-opt the Hindu faith in its political goals. Since then, Indians in the diaspora, especially Hindus, have become unwitting stakeholders in Indian politics, with the right and the responsibility to call out the misdeeds of Modi’s Hindutva government and to loudly say, “Not in Our Names!”

No one could have said it better than Congress parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor, who strongly pushed back on the “presumption that the purveyors of hatred speak for all or even most Hindus”:

“To discriminate against another, to attack another, to kill another, to destroy another’s place of worship, is not part of the Hindu dharma so magnificently preached by Vivekananda, nor the Hinduism propagated in twentieth-century India by Mahatma Gandhi, whose advocacy of ahimsa and satyagraha brought Hindu values into the national movement, while accommodating all other faiths…The Hindutva ideology is in fact a malign distortion of Hinduism.”

Views expressed are entirely personal.

Raju Rajagopal is a co-founder of Hindus for Human Rights.