Business Standard

Propaganda vs facts


The Hindu right wing has worked hard in recent years at keeping its propaganda germane to the political narrative. By the time its ideologica­l rivals believe they have marshalled and disseminat­ed the facts to dispel a set of myths it propagates, the Hindu right wing shapeshift­s to stoke public rage or sympathy for another strand.

Take the growth of the Muslim and Christian population­s. After decades, the Hindu right wing has accepted, when countered with Census data, that the Christian population plateaued after the British left and marginally declined from 2.35 per cent in 1951 to 2.3 per cent in 2011. No longer does the Hindu right wing mock Muslims, at least not with as much zeal as it did until a few years back, with jibes of hum paanch hamare pachees. The propaganda lost its edge after population experts persuasive­ly establishe­d, analysing Census data, that the Muslim fertility rate is declining at an accelerate­d rate.

But the debate is set to shapeshift to another aspect of population increase — a demographi­c challenge in India’s land and coastal borders, villages and states. On February 1, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the government will form a high-powered committee to extensivel­y consider the challenges of fast population growth and demographi­c changes.

A day later, the rash tri ya Sway ams eva ks angh(rss) social media handles posted excerpts of speeches of its pr a char pramukh( publicity chief ), a run Kumar. according to kumar, wealthier Muslims from the maldives, scared that climate change would sub merge their islands, were buying land in coastal K ar nat aka. he flagged christian missionary activity in india’ s village son its internatio­nal borders. right wing journals,suchas Panchjanya­and Organiser, have run cover stories of pros ely tis at ion in punjab and muslims settling inutt ar a khan d’ s deserted villages alongthein­do-nepalborde­r.

This book by three journalist­s proffers “simple facts to counter viral falsehoods” on such right wing propaganda as love jihad, population jihad, forced conversion­s and Muslim appeasemen­t. The book has an exhaustive list of endnotes. Even if late by a few years, it is a welcome addition and could do with an updated version.

The authors have compiled some fascinatin­g insights backed with groundleve­l reporting. In February 2017, in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, some Bharatiya Janata Party leaders insinuated that the state’s Samajwadi Party government supplied less electricit­y during Diwali and Holi than during Ramzan and Eid. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said in 2019 that the SP government provided electricit­y during Eid but not Diwali.

The data from Power System Operation Corporatio­n Limited, a central monitoring agency, was “startling”. Between 2013 and 2017, under the SP, more electricit­y was supplied in UP on Diwali than on Eid. From 2018 onwards, when the BJP was in power in Lucknow, electricit­y supplied on Eid outstrippe­d the supply on Diwali. During the SP’S rule, Eid fell in the monsoon months of July and August, while in the BJP years, Eid shifted to the warmer months of May and June. The authors also bust myths about expenditur­e on UP’S Muslim graveyard scheme or the Centre’s allocation for madrasa education. According to available data, less than four per cent of Muslim students study in madrasas. However, the bogey of madrasa education has lent credence to promoting Hindu religious education in schools and colleges.

The authors counter myths on the “pink revolution”, or the slaughteri­ng of cows for meat exports, and the propaganda contributi­ng to increased incidents of anti-muslim violence. The authors said they tracked media reports to tabulate “cow-related violence” to discover one instance between 2009 and 2014, but 136 such attacks between 2014 and 2023, in which 66 were killed and 284 injured, and at least 70 per cent of the victims were Muslims.

The book details the poor socio-economic and educationa­l conditions of Muslims in India, and not just during the last 10 years. “The Hindu Right has it backwards. Far from being pampered by the Congress, Muslims are at the bottom of the heap. If the Congress is guilty of anything, it is of failing to uplift Muslims despite enjoying the longest stints in power,” the authors write. Here again, the debate in 2024 has moved on with the BJP arguing that all castes and religions, whether Hindus, Muslims or any other, are beneficiar­ies of the welfare schemes of its government­s.

On proselytis­ation, the right wing now talks of “crypto Christians”, those who convert to Christiani­ty but do not declare their religious persuasion to the government lest they lose government benefits, especially reservatio­ns in the case of Scheduled Castes (SC). Several Bjp-ruled states have passed laws to ban fraudulent conversion­s, but the data on such conversion­s is specious.

As the authors of this book demonstrat­e, the conversion to Christiani­ty, especially among Scheduled Tribes, is a fact of life. Research shows that tribal families, particular­ly women, frequent church for the healthcare and education that it promises for their families, for persuading their men to abjure alcohol, in the process raising the family income and engenderin­g equitable gender relations. The right wing is at a loss to counter their social service.

Contrary to the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission’s view that Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims should benefit from reservatio­ns, the government told the Supreme Court in 2022 that the report was myopic. It announced a new commission to study the issue, while the Sangh Parivar advocates denying government benefits to tribals who have converted.

 ?? ?? LOVE JIHAD AND OTHER FICTIONS: Simple Facts To Counter Viral Falsehoods
Authors: Sreenivasa­n Jain, Mariyam Alavi, Supriya Sharma Publisher: Aleph Book Company Pages: 183
Price: ~799
LOVE JIHAD AND OTHER FICTIONS: Simple Facts To Counter Viral Falsehoods Authors: Sreenivasa­n Jain, Mariyam Alavi, Supriya Sharma Publisher: Aleph Book Company Pages: 183 Price: ~799
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