Congratulations, Modi, on being the mascot of Hindu fundamentalism in India for two years
India’s Donald Trump completed two years in office last week. We, Indians can relate to the fear the Americans may have on the possibility of the Republican leader winning the elections. We have been living in that anxiety and fear since 2014.
There are many people in the United States who believe that the raucous, divisive Trump will be a changed man once he becomes the president. They are willing to buy the argument that power will mellow him down.
The same argument was touted when Modi launched himself as the candidate for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for premiership three years ago. Many, who supported him – forgetting his involvement in the 2002 Gujarat riots and his majoritarian politics in the state – rationalised that Narendra Modi as the PM would be an inclusive leader and an agent of positive change in India.
Media, corporate houses, a section of intelligentsia endorsed him with the hope that the BJP leader means business and he exudes sincerity when he talks about ushering in a new era of economic development. Larger masses feeling disenchanted by the Congress regime believed each and every word Modi uttered. He played into the fears, insecurities, vanities and ambitions of the masses and secured their approval.
Two years down the line, Modi no longer appears to be the panacea for the ills affecting the state, but a symptom of a deeper malaise that confronts the Indian nation today. His is the manifestation of the lurking majoritarianism that threatens to devour the democracy nurtured so assiduously for more than six decades.
Modi is not a changed man; he is trying to alter the secular hue of the country with saffron, the colour closely associated with Hindu right wing. It’s not subtle anti-minoritism, it’s as brazen as it can be. If the minority is hurt, so be it – this seems to be the attitude of the government. A Muslim man was killed over rumours that he had consumed beef and the BJP never condemned the incident, instead the prime minister maintained an enigmatic suspense. Every now and then the Hindu radical groups associated with the BJP or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) question the credentials of Muslims in India. Their loyalty to the country is interrogated, and by altering history textbooks, they are being portrayed as the outsiders. Rabid anti-Muslim icons of the Hindu right wing group are getting institutional recognition and a place in history textbook.
The liberal and secular traditions of the country are at stake today. Anyone who questions the Hindu majoritarian agenda is being termed as anti-national. This mind set has stirred turmoil in university campuses as well. The students who question the majoritarian agenda of the regime are labelled as anti-national and a threat to the society.
No wonder there is currently a new kind of societal tension in India. The saffronisation project – as the right wing agenda is popularly called, has not only created new fault lines, but also accentuated the old ones.
The main culprits that were involved in the Malegaon blast case (who happen to be Hindus linked to the RSS) were set free and washed clean of anything indicating their penchant for targeting Muslims and patronising those belonging to the majority community. Most of those convicted in the 2002 Gujarat riot cases are now free on bail and leading a normal life.
In the last couple of years, Hindu radical groups have dominated headlines in India and they have unleashed havoc not only on social media but on society as a whole. If there is a historical parallel to the current situation, the present right wing government resembles the Ziaul Haq regime of Pakistan in 1980s. The Pakistani dictator institutionalised Islamic extremism in the country with its open support and imparted biased history to its citizens. That being said, India’s western neighbour continues to suffer the pain of this majoritarian fundamentalism.
Under Modi’s government, India is witnessing the same majoritarian makeover. Under the garb of democracy – a very dangerous trend is let loose in the country which will be a body blow to the secular polity and constitution of the country.
India accepted Modi as he promised economic reforms and development, but the BJP leader is working on a different agenda altogether. According to The Telegraph,
“Narendra Modi’s first two years in office can be summed up as a betrayal of great expectations...There has been a remarkable rise in the level of fear among sections of the population, particularly among minorities and among those who are opposed to Mr Modi’s regime.”
A popular public intellectual and social scientist, Shiv Visvanathan calls Modi “Frankenstein”, a scientist, who creates a monster that not only kills its creator but also devours everything else. In an article, titled, The facade of great celebration of India’s ‘most mediocre regime’, Visvanathan writes that,
“When the RSS runs epidemic over the country, I wonder if my era, my sense of the country is outdated.
For a man like me, who witnessed the 2002 riots, Modi is a non-negotiable entity.
Yet the country is cutting cakes and celebrating two years of Modi rule. It is as if one is caught in a huge B-grade play with a country singing happy birthday to Frankenstein.”
Modi might be celebrating his two years as a dawn of a new era, but there are many who are concerned about the unabated rise of Hindu fundamentalism in the country. The divisive forces that have been at the margin of Indian polity since independence, have assumed centre stage. Modi is the mascot of that force.
For the last two years, Modi has been focussed on tuning India into a rabid Hindu state.