There have been riots, protests and demonstrations around the country against the words spoken by former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma during a TV debate. Most of the more violent ones have been witnessed in non-BJP ruled states, where perhaps the atmosphere has been more conducive with less fear of retributive action. However, it must be noted by all that, considering the population of Muslims in India, these protestors represent a miniscule number. At some places, the mobs had to be bolstered with the presence of children to make up the numbers. While Muslims have been united in condemning the comments on Prophet Muhammad, most have chosen to adopt a civilised approach to the issue. In fact, many seminaries and clerics have come out against the violence and sought action against the accused under the constitution. They have warned the community to stay clear of the fundamentalist trap that desires polarisation and conflict between communities.
This has, indeed, been a test for the Muslims on how vested they are in the common citizens’ priorities such as pursuing careers, obtaining good education for children, caring for the elders and living the good life in accordance with their interests and faith. By and large, it is evident that they understand the need for a developing and peaceful India. In the process, the fringe elements are being pushed further away from centre stage. If it were not for social media and ballistic TV debates, there would not be such a disproportionate projection of the issues.
Nupur Sharma has been punished for misrepresenting the BJP, even if in the heat of the moment, by having her future in politics extinguished. As a private person, however, it is the law that will determine whether she had uttered hate speech. The numerous FIRs lodged against her will ensure that she will have her days in court.
At the same time, it is for the Muslim Community to ask itself how long it will take its representatives to counter allegations through effective arguments, instead of merely taking offence. Such an approach would not only give members of the community greater confidence in their identity but also provide the coming generations a clear path to follow. It is not that the extremists of various kinds will cease to exist, but they will effectively have been put in their place. All communities should also remain aware of the elements that, for their own interests, seek to provoke and spread hate, and not become victims of their designs.