The stark truth is that violence and minority bashing is bad for business and the economy. It damages the fabric of society, interrupts commerce and breaks down law and order – Neeraj Kaushal
What deep sense of insecurity compels BJP karyakartas (rank and file) to fear that the existence of other cultures in society threatens their own? What inferiority complex urges them to believe that unless they terrorise minorities, they will not be true Hindus? These questions require deep psychological analysis.
In recent months, BJP bhakts have gone full steam against the minorities. They are frothing with hate speeches on social media, staging provocative processions, threatening violence, and engaging in demolitions in minority neighbourhoods and places of worship, and stirring up minority schools and colleges.
First, it was love jihad, then violence against minority schools, then rewriting textbooks to glorify Hindu kings and vilify Muslim rulers, next inciting violence around mosques and churches, engaging in violence against individuals suspected of being involved in the cattle trade followed by aggression against people eating meat, then imposing restrictions on the sort of meat restaurants can sell. The list continues to grow.
There seems to be a presumption that bigotry, minority bashing, and communal violence hurts only minorities, even when there’s enough evidence to the contrary. The stark truth is violence and minority bashing is bad for business, and the economy. It damages the fabric of society, weakens institutions of governance, interrupts commerce and breaks down law and order. Spreading hatred against minorities may benefit the BJP by way of consolidation of Hindu votes, but it’s a dangerous game that can spark communal riots leading to widespread socio-economic consequences.
Sadly, leaders of the BJP government at the Centre and in several states are slow and often silent, in condemning instances of hate speech and violence against minorities. And the silence of top BJP leaders is more deafening than the high-volume hate speeches of its rank and file.
It’s self-evident that industry and business prosper in peaceful and orderly environments. When civic governments impose restrictions on businesses based on the religious practices of a certain community, it affects not only the business of that community but all businesses. Recent guidelines issued by the Delhi Municipal Corporation on restaurant owners to label the meat they serve is a case in point. While some restaurants may slaughter animals they use in food preparation, most buy it from butchers and may not know how the animals are slaughtered. All restaurant owners — Hindu, Christian, Sikhs — will be adversely impacted by these orders.
Cow vigilantism combined with ban on cow slaughter has nearly killed the cattle economy in the Hindi belt, impacting Hindu cattle rearers as well as Muslim cattle traders. The price of milch cows has fallen from Rs.50,000 to Rs.15,000 in recent months, with few takers for male calves. Villagers, including Hindus, find it more profitable and less risky to rear buffalos rather than cows. The number of male calves in the country has fallen from 84 million in 2007 to 47 million in 2019. The monthly cost of maintaining unproductive cattle is Rs.7,500. So farmers simply release them, unleashing the menace of stray cattle on communities around them. Stray cattle are secular. They destroy farms and properties of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians with equal zeal.
Viewed on a wider canvas, instances of hate crime and hate speech are also damaging India’s global standing and economic interests. Consumers in western countries have at times responded to instances of brazen bigotry by boycotting products to punish countries engaged in such oppression. Growing instances of minority targeting could cause loss of foreign markets for Indian products, as Raghuram Rajan, former RBI governor, implied in a recent statement. Foreign investors may decide to withdraw their investment if they find that communal prejudice and violence is worsening law and order, which increases the risk of doing business in India.
Unfortunately, the BJP rank and file believe there is no downside to engaging in violence. The police often looks the other way when Hindu vigilantes threaten and target minorities. When arrested, they are released without much or any punishment. But though they may be protected, the Indian economy is not. The surge in communal conflict and violence will hit economic growth at a time when the global economy is on the edge of a recession.