Protests against the communal hatred and misogyny in both, online and offline spaces are now coming from unexpected quarters.
The Haridwar dharam sansad (religious parliament) and the floating of apps purporting to auction Indian Muslim women have elicited demands for action against those voicing hate from some of India’s premier institutions of higher education.
Earlier this month, students and faculty from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad and Bangalore wrote to the Prime Minister, saying that his silence was emboldening voices of hate.
Next came a letter from a number of alumni of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), demanding action against the “deep communal hatred and misogyny” expressed by people with “close ties” to the ruling BJP.
Worried by the Prime Minister’s silence, the IIT alumni wrote, “As the country valiantly battles the challenges from the never ending COVID-19, the sharply rising unemployment and masses of people being pushed into poverty, we are now faced with the grave danger from rising calls for genocide of one community.”
The letter from the IIT alumni also makes mention of reports of the Tek Fog app saying, “Reports suggest that this is a Psychological Ops military grade weapon and in the hands of mal-intentioned actors, it can have serious security implications. Your condemnation of this alleged weapon is still awaited.”
This is worrying for the government and the ruling BJP. Both, the IIMs and the IITs are respected for the education they provide and the value they have added to business and industry, especially for the aspirational sections of the country.
Not the fringe any more
One IIM faculty member said the group took the initiative after realising that silence was not an option any more. “For far too long, the mainstream discourse has dismissed the voices of hate as the fringe. That’s how we are here,” the Indian Express newspaper quoted him as saying.
Now, the two leading institutions of learning have been joined by alumni from the Institute of Rural Management Anand, and other institutions of learning, including New Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College and Miranda House, the National Institute of Design and the Xavier’s School of Management (XLRI).
The letter emphasises on the unsafe environment for women in the country with the threat of physical harm, sexual violence and outright violation of dignity and rights becoming commonplace.
“They are manifestations of the culture that target women, for daring to have a voice of their own,” the alumni of these institutions have said in their open letter addressed to the President, the Prime Minister and Members of Parliament.
Urging leaders to break their silence, the letter says, “In this atmosphere of silence not only do the perpetrators of such crimes often go scot-free, they are getting emboldened by the increasing atmosphere of hate and divisiveness in the country and barely show any remorse for hate filled misogynistic crimes.”