Himachal's shame: Rumour mongering against Rohingyas to achieve communal polarisation
Over the last few days, rumour mongering leading to lynching of the minorities and the marginalised sections of the society has become a norm. But it has assumed a new dimension in Himachal Pradesh on the issue of presumed employment of some Rohingya refugees in door to door collection in Shimla.
The outcome has been spewing of venom by the Hindutva groups and organisations across the region much to the delight of the political forces keen on polarisation of the society ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
It all started with a report in a vernacular daily known for its right wing stance that pointed at employment of some Rohingya refugees for garbage collection by a construction company to which the garbage collection work has been outsourced for five wards of the town namely Totu, Machyat, Boileuganj, Kacchighati and Tuti Kandi.
The report was rife with the ongoing right wing slander against the Rohingya Muslims pointing at their being a threat to the country. It posed a question how they could manage to reach Shimla.
This got the tongues wagging and all sorts of rumours started doing the rounds with one of them saying that someone had seen United Nations identity cards on some people. This brought a much sought opportunity for organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) that were quick to lap it up.
The VHP immediately issued a statement saying: “Rohingya Muslims will not be accepted in the state at any cost. There are already hundreds of Bangladeshis living illegally in Himachal and arrival of Rohingyas will be a big security threat to the state. Their being brought to Shimla as employees points to a big conspiracy.”
The VHP threatened to launch an agitation if the Rohingyas were not sent back and action was not taken against the company that recruited them. The organisation demanded that the recruitment be done at the local level.
The most serious aspect of the issue has been that not even a single person has come forward to say that he or she had met any Rohingyas. Things came to a pass that Shimla Mayor Kusum Sadret had to issue a statement saying that no Rohingyas had been deployed for door to door garbage collection.
“We have not signed the letter of intent and the contractor has not even started the work,” she said. She said the contractor has been asked to recruit people only after police verification.
“There are many questions. Who saw the Rohingyas? Who started the rumours? Did the police do any verification? The biggest issue is that is it not the job of the police to come out clarifying things?” asked former Mayor Sanjay Chauhan of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
He has also accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC) first allowing a mess to be created on garbage collection and then going in for outsourcing the garbage collection in the name of the same mess thus paving the way for privatisation of the entire garbage collection mechanism.
But more important is the bogey that is being created against the minorities in the hill state. Chauhan has aimed a shot at the ruling pointing, “Isn't it strange that the recruitment is being done by the RSS-BJP people sitting in the SMC and then these very same people are making a hue and cry about it. What does one make of it? Is it the preparation for 2019 ?”
The kind of venom being spewed against the minorities puts to shame the people of this hill state that takes pride in calling itself a 'cultured, educated and developed' society. Those spewing venom include people from professions like teaching. It comes as a shock to read social media posts like the one saying.
“Maaro s****n ko. Aur jab maarne jao mujhe bula lena. Mera number hai********** (Kill the *********. When you go for the assault please call me. My number is **********).”
This is surely not something that can be expected from people of Himachal and particularly those from Shimla.
Over the last few years a hate campaign has been on in various districts of the state, particularly against the Muslims, by the right wing groups. In towns like Solan it is through sheer dint of hard work that the Muslim migrants have prospered as masons, plumbers along with other professionals required in the construction industry and also as those running the fruit and vegetable business. Most of them are from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
The right-wing organisations have been running a whispered campaign against them often provoking the unemployed locals against them saying that these migrants have usurped what is rightfully theirs. This campaign is backed by the general campaign being carried out by the across the country by the Hindutva organizations on issues like cow vigilantism etc.
Although there is hardly any Muslim population in the state, the agenda appears to keep a fear of minorities alive in the majority to achieve political goals.
Barring the Left that has a presence in small pockets, no other political force has come forward to condemn these attempts at communal polarisation. While this cannot be expected from the BJP, the Congress by trying to peddle soft Hindutva too is failing the people on this count.
This has left the minorities, particularly the Muslims including a large number of Kashmiris who work as labourers in the state, standing extremely vulnerable to the communal diatribe and insecurity that accompanies this campaign.
Such vicious campaigns are only expected to increase as the country heads towards the Lok Sabha polls.