Fear, deception and intimidation have become pillars of the Narendra Modi-led central government, Congress President Sonia Gandhi wrote in an article for The Indian Express on Saturday.
The Congress chief wrote that even as the prime minister often acknowledged the multiple diversities in India, his government was manipulating them to divide the country.
“Whether it is dress, food, faith, festival or language, Indians are sought to be pitted against Indians and the forces of discord are given every encouragement, overt and covert,” Gandhi wrote.
Gandhi accused the ruling dispensation of undermining the “composite and syncretic foundations of Indian society and nationhood” for political gains.
Recent incidents of hatred, aggression and crimes against minorities were a departure from the syncretic traditions of the Indian society, Gandhi wrote in The Indian Express.
In several parts of the country in the past few months, hate speech and calls for genocide against Muslims have been made. Hindutva supremacists have threatened to rape Muslim women and online abusers have created apps to put them on “auctions”.
In her article, Gandhi pointed out that corporate executives have spoken out against the “worsening environment of social illiberalism and bigotry, [and] the spread of hatred and divisiveness”, which she wrote has shaken the foundations of economic growth.
She was referring to industrialist Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw’s comments, who last month urged Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai to address a “religious divide” in the state.
Muslims in Karnataka have repeatedly been targeted by Hindu supremacists over the last couple of months. Muslim students and teachers have been harassed since the state government imposed a ban on wearing hijabs in educational institutions. Hindutva organisations in the state have also objected to Muslims setting up stalls near temples.
The Congress chief also accused the Modi-led government of targeting political opponents with the “full might of the state machinery”.
“All dissent and opinion that is opposed to the ideology of those in power is sought to be ruthlessly stifled,” Gandhi wrote in The Indian Express. “...Activists are threatened and sought to be silenced.”
As recently as on Wednesday, non-governmental organisation Pen America listed India among the top 10 countries for 2021, that have jailed writers, academics and intellectuals for their writings, works and advocacy.
On Tuesday, a US Department of State report had flagged discrimination against minorities in India, extrajudicial killings, degrading treatment or punishment by the police and prison officials and arbitrary arrests and detentions by government authorities among other concerns.
Gandhi also questioned the prime minister on not speaking up against incidents of hate crimes.
“What prevents the prime minister from coming down unambiguously and publicly against hate speech, whichever quarter it may emanate from?” she questioned, alleging that the perpetrators enjoyed “some sort of official patronage”.
The Congress chief called upon citizens to contain what she described as a “tsunami of hate”.
“An apocalypse of hatred, bigotry, intolerance and untruth is engulfing our country today,” she wrote. “If we don’t stop it now, it will damage our society beyond repair, if it hasn’t already done so. We simply cannot and must not allow this to go on.”