NEW DELHI: Will Pakistanis do a victory dance should the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi lose the ongoing Bihar polls? According to BJP president Amit Shah, who addressed an election rally in Raxaul on Thursday, a loss for the party would set off firecrackers in Pakistan, reference to a common way of celebrating victory in India.

Addressing a public meeting on the day Bihar finished its third round of polling in the five-stage election, Mr Shah asked the audience if they wanted crackers to go off in Pakistan? The audience said no.

“Do you want the return of Jungle Raaj-Two? If by any mistake BJP loses, victory and defeat may be in Bihar but firecrackers will go off in Pakistan. Do you want crackers being burst in Pakistan?” His opponents said they would petition the Election Commission to stop the BJP’s increasingly divisive speeches.

Informed journalists visiting the electoral battlefield in Bihar have claimed the Grand Alliance between Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, his foe-turned-ally Lalu Yadav and the Congress party have got a clear edge in the month-long contest. The BJP says it would sweep the polls. A few say the race is too close to call.

The Indian Express said Mr Shah’s remarks came “against the backdrop of reports that it could be tough going for the saffron alliance in the state contrary to earlier reports that the BJP-led grouping was comfortably placed.”

Mr Shah also said if the Grand Alliance of JD(U), RJD and Congress win, then “gangsters” like Mohammad Shahabuddin, a RJD leader presently lodged in jail, will celebrate.

He also repeated the charge that the Grand Alliance was plotting to give away a share of job and education quotas meant for the backward castes and Dalits to the minorities, a reference to Muslims.

The BJP went into the polls on a campaign of economic development. However, it has slid into a pattern of communal innuendo, which is ascribed to its fear of losing.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who began the process of trouncing the BJP has lent public support to the Grand Alliance.

Regardless of how Pakistanis greet the poll verdict, which is expected after the counting of votes on November 8, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party is in bad odour with a growing number of protests across India led by some of the most respected public intellectuals.

“Differences of opinion are being sought to be settled by using physical violence.

Arguments are met not with counter arguments but with bullets,” a statement issued by 53 leading historians said. They were referring to the Dadri lynching incident and the recent paint attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni during a book launch function in Mumbai.

“When writer after writer is returning their award of recognition in protest, no comment is made about the conditions that caused the protest; instead the ministers call it a paper revolution and advise the writers to stop writing. This is as good as saying that intellectuals will be silenced if they protest,” the statement said.

This was particularly worrying for historians who have already experienced attempts to ban their books and expunge statements of history despite the fact that they were supported by sources and the interpretation is transparent, they said.

“What the regime seems to want is a kind of legislated history, a manufactured image of the past, glorifying certain aspects of it and denigrating others, without any regard for chronology, sources or methods of enquiry that are the building blocks of the edifice of history,” the statement said.

The statement urged the state to ensure an atmosphere that is “conducive to free and fearless expression, security for all sections of society and the safeguarding of the values and traditions of plurality that India had always cherished in the past.”

“It is easy to trample them down, but it is important to remember that it will take too long and will be beyond the capacity of those who are currently at the helm of affairs, to rebuild it once it is destroyed,” the statement said.

At least 36 writers including leading names like Nayantara Sahgal, Ashok Vajpeyi, Uday Prakash and K. Veerabhadrappa had returned their Sahitya Akademi awards, and five writers stepped down from official positions of the literary body, protesting against its “silence” over “rising intolerance”.

The Akademi had yielded to the unrelenting protests by calling an emergency meeting and issued a strong condemnation of the killing of Kannada writer M. M. Kalburgi and others while urging litterateurs to take back awards.

On Wednesday, agitating students from Film and Television Institute of India unilaterally withdrew their 139-day-old strike but vowed to continue protests as 10 eminent filmmakers returned their National Awards voicing solidarity with them and against growing intolerance in the country.

Padma Bhushan recipient scientist P.M. Bhargava on Thursday announced his decision to return the award. Other Padma awardees Ashoke Sen, and P. Balram had previously petitioned the president urging him to initiate “suitable actions”.

Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2015

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