Witnessing the rise of Modi's Hindu state
You cannot live in an illusion forever. Reality does strike, sooner or later. And that is what is happening with Narendra Modi’s government in Delhi. The illusion that Modi would usher in a new era of modern and progressive governance is fast disappearing and giving way to a new realism. He led the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a historic win this year with the promise of bringing a new era of economic and political reforms.
Six months into power, India is still waiting to see the promised economic reforms. It is, however, witnessing an unravelling of regressive politics which the country has been trying hard to suppress for decades.
Hindu fundamentalist elements are having a field day under the direct patronage of the present ruler in Delhi. Modi, before becoming the prime minister and even after, has assured the nation that he would not discriminate in the name of religion and the minority communities would be given adequate protection and care from the government.
But the right-wing regime is unravelling its agenda with each passing day. The fear we nurtured about the BJP and its premier, Modi, is coming true. A strong section in India always suspected that Modi would harp on about economic reforms but at the same time would give a free reign to his workers to unleash the fundamentalist Hindutva agenda. And this is happening. The PM presents a modern façade, talking big both inside and outside the country, but at the same time, patronises parochial Hindu forces hell bent on denting the country’s secular character.
The recent case of converting Muslims in Agra lays bare the deep seated agenda of the radical Hindu groups. Some of the BJP law makers and supporters have openly declared that they will convert hundreds of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism on Christmas Day. The question is not how far they will succeed in their mission but the very fact that such open onslaught on India’s secularism and pluralism by the ruling party members go unchecked and uncensored is alarming.
Couple of weeks ago, during an election rally in Delhi, a minister from Modi’s governmet, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, addressed the Muslim minority as “haramzadon” (bastards) or illegitimate children of the country. Despite such open blatant attack on a religious minority, the PM refused to sack her from the cabinet, but apologised in the parliament. A few days later, however, the same minister was sent to hold a rally in Delhi’s Trilokpuri area which had, only a few weeks ago, witnessed a religious clash between Hindu and Muslims. A local BJP legislator is popularly blamed for inciting trouble in the area which has not seen communal violence for decades. The very fact that Jyoti was allowed to address rallies in communally sensitive territory clearly demonstrates that BJP has no qualms in exploiting religious divisions to win elections.
Sanjeev Balyan, who was accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots last year, that claimed the lives of 60 Muslims and displaced hundreds of the families from the minority community, has been appointed as the minister of the state with independent charge. Political analysts say that the religious violence in western Uttar Pradesh last year played a crucial role in polarising voters in the state that sent whopping 80 out of 85 parliamentarians to lower house in 2014 elections on the BJP ticket. Similarly, Giriraj Singh came into the spotlight because of his anti-Muslim rant during the election campaign earlier this year and it is no surprise that he then found a place in Modi’s cabinet.
These instances clearly establish what Modi actually stands for and the kind of the country he wants India to become.
One major project of the right-wing Hindu forces is the communalisation of history text books and tampering with school education and giving it a Hindu slant. Hindu myth is gradually being introduced as history and India is primarily being introduced as a Hindu state. There is a deliberate attempt to discount India’s Islamic tradition and history. Today, all the important educational bodies of the government are headed by people who have received training from and are loyal to the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological patron of the BJP and all the fundamentalist Hindu groups in the country. The RSS wants to establish India as a Hindu majoritarian state .Its chief has openly declared that Modi is the first Hindu ruler of India after 800 years.
They see Modi’s arrival to power as an opportunity to dilute India’s secular and plural nature, in hopes to radicalise society in the name of religion. The way radical Islamists want Islam to be restored, proponents of Hindu nationalism desire to turn the country into a Hindu majoritarian state. They are no longer coy about it. They are very brazen.
Is Modi unaware of what is happening around him?
To say yes would be a lie.
It would mean a blind illusion about the prime minister’s ‘goodness’. Modi is master of divisive politics. He rose to political fame after the 2002 Gujarat riots where more than 1,000 Muslims were brutally killed while he was heading the state. He never apologised for the incident, he never tried to reach out to the Muslim community despite being the chief minister of the state for over a decade.
With such a man being the prime minister of India, can his followers and supporters practice politics of inclusion?
He talks of making India a progressive country, a leader at the international arena. But the kind of politics and value system he inspires and condones, does not seem to be promising for the largest democracy of the world. We cannot prosper with such a regressive ideology.
At this time, it is important for us to face the reality of who our prime minister is and what he stands for. At this point, it is important for us to understand that for the first time in almost seven decades, the idea of India is under serious threat. Modi’s vision of the country is radically at odds with India’s own syncretic past. It is time we open our eyes, hearts and minds, and ask ourselves, is this truly what we want India to become?