​The Nupur Sharma Controversy and Facts

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​The Nupur Sharma Controversy
Nupur Sharma

​The Nupur Sharma Controversy:

In response to an Islamist's abuse of Hindu beliefs, Nupur Sharma made 3 remarks after observing that she too could pay back in kind:
  1. The Quran says the earth is flat.
  2. The hadiths claim that Muhammad undertook a nocturnal journey to heaven on a horse
  3. The hadiths say that a 53-year-old Muhammad married a 6-year-old Ayesha.
All 3 are factual remarks because that's what Islamic scriptures say. However, she received death and rape threats which are real. She has been suspended by the BJP. Why? Because Arab countries allegedly threatened GoI that it would block oil exports to India and that Hindu workers would be expelled from Gulf countries. The former threat is more pertinent because India imports over 50% of its oil from the Gulf. In the wake of the Ukraine crisis, alternative oil sources are non-existent. Elsewhere, EAM Jaishankar has pointed out that there's a real physical shortage of oil around the world. If India faces an oil crunch, it would adversely impact the economy thereby putting millions of Indian lives, especially those of the poor, in jeopardy. So, the government has acted prudently out of compulsion. That's understandable. You sometimes lose a battle to win a war.

None of these make Nupur Sharma a fanatic as some leftists have proclaimed. The unpalatable facts she has mentioned are in Islamic scriptures. Muslims believe those as literal truths. Especially, the Ayesha episode has been used by Islamists to advocate child marriages. Al-Razi, writing in the 9th century, declared that whenever the truth claims of Islam are challenged Islamists respond with violence, blood-letting, and intolerance. A millennium later, little has changed. The only way this would change is when societies are free to discuss and criticize Islam.

Unfortunately, sections 295A and 153A of the IPC invoke blasphemy and preclude such discussions. They punish the peaceful critic and privilege the sentiments of the one who is predisposed to react to criticism with violence. Without free speech, no civil society can function. A society that enacts laws to uphold the street power of the intolerant is doomed. The blasphemy laws were enacted by the British to shield Islam and Christianity from criticism while enabling attacks on Hinduism under the guise of the intent to reform society. Nehru continued the shameful colonial legacy in his pursuit of communal politics.

What's the way out?

First, as Vivek Kaul has often remarked, India should invest in solar energy on a war footing. Invite the private sector and give it a 10-year tax break. Supplement it with nuclear and hydrogen fuel. Set up nuclear reactors in Karnataka, Orissa, UP, MP, and Bihar.

Second, most Hindus would baulk at the idea of criticizing other religions. They don't understand the importance of free speech. We're a wounded civilization that is yet to come out of the colonial mindset. So, enacting free speech laws would always be challenging. However, most Hindus also baulk at the prospect of street violence. So, free speech laws should be coupled with strict laws which have zero tolerance for violence. That would resonate better with society.

Third, Hindus are a fragmented society. We don't have congregations. However, there's cohesiveness within jati groups. There's a crying need to mobilize jati groups using shared practices, e.g., yoga camps, akharas, where our youth of both sexes come together and have skin in the game. 

It's easy to criticize the BJP. However, BJP didn't create this problem, which is a legacy of colonial rule. The way out has to be a joint Hindu initiative. 

...Jataayu B'luru Pankaj Saxena Cherry Lou Ananthakrishnan Pakshirajan Raghu Bhaskaran

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