IF I were to award marks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his two-year governance, I would give him four out of 10. I wouldn’t fail him because he did not officially pursue the Hindutva programme and yet allowed the RSS and Bajrang Dal, both extremist organisations, to have the run of the field. I know that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was allowed to use Akashvani to purvey his parochial and extremist views. In the same manner other government-owned institutions, such as the Nehru Library, were asked to follow the words coming from the RSS headquarters at Nagpur, or Jhandewalan in New Delhi. Heads of different educational institutes with Nehruvian leanings were dismissed.
The process is not yet complete. Even the central institutions in the Congress-run states are being systematically saffronised. Modi doesn’t have to give day-to-day instructions. The message has reached that the entire set-up will have to—willy-nilly—follow the Hindutva line of thinking, no matter how ante deluvian. Take the case of murder at Dadri, only 50 kilometres from Delhi. One Muslim was killed by fanatics simply because his family was suspected to have eaten beef. The extremists were not content with the killing of one person but wanted action against the whole family. They did not even raise their voice in protest. What kind of message must this have sent to the world about a nation which is capable of sending a man to the moon, when it is steeped in the ante-deluvian ideas that consider beef-eating as a sin?What saddens one is the silence of those who claim to be secularists. Will these same chest-beating secularists also remain silent if Modi tomorrow permits his foreign minister to break ties with Japan because the Japanese are famous for producing their famous Kobe beef, which is considered one of the world’s greatest delicacies? Unfortunately, the Hindutva crowd does not realize that India is ruled by the constitution and it is not a Hindu rashtra. The constitution gives equal rights to Hindus who are 80 per cent and the minorities who make up the remaining 20 per cent of population. Together they constitute the republic.
Modi was right when he raised the slogan, sabka saath, sabka vikas, meaning thereby that we shall be all together and advance further hand in hand. But subsequently he and his party BJP appear to have lost way and today, whether they like it or not, their government has come to represent a particular way of thinking—an intolerant India—which has the overtones of Hindutva. Probably, the party’s their think-tank has come to believe that they can win more votes by dividing the society. With assembly elections due in UP early next year, the Bajrang Dal has begun vitiating the atmosphere. They are holding more and more exercises in different cities where lathis and other weapons are used.
This is a kind of parallel police force and even UP, where the non-BJP government is currently in power, there are morning and evening parades of extremists to instruct the young recruits in the use of lathis. The same fear of Islamic domination that is being exploited by right wing parties in the West is being cunningly manipulated in India by the BJP and its allies.
We forget that in the democratic structure we have, everyone is free to eat whatever he or she likes. Nothing can be enforced. In a vast country like India where food and dress change every 50 kilometres, diversity is inevitable. Indeed, this is India’s strength. Respecting diversity keeps our different units together in a federal structure which we follow. The BJP hardliners who believe they have come to power because of a fundamental shift in national values should think again. There is more than a grain of truth in the argument that voters gave them a chance because they had lost faith in the Congress and were looking for an alternative.
The Congress will be failing them if it persists with dynastic politics. The party must realize —if it has not done so far—that Rahul Gandhi does not sell. Sonia Gandhi herself will be a far better bet than the other leaders so far available in the party. The disadvantage of being an Italian has disappeared over the years and she is considered as much an Indian as anyone by birth.
But problem is that she has very little chance to head the country because the Congress has lost its shine. No doubt, the BJP has Hinduised politics but that is the dominant thinking which has caught the imagination at present, thanks to Modi’s leadership. This thinking may not last long since the Indian nation is basically pluralistic. The BJP itself seems to be conscious of this because there is some evidence that it is moving from the right of the centre to the centre.
The predicament that plagues the party is that its cadre comes from the RSS. Maybe, that is the reason that there is no scam in the government. However one may dislike the RSS ideology, its emphasis on integrity cannot be doubted. Yet, there should be no misgiving on its interference in the governance. Even top bureaucrats are judged on their proximity to the Hindutva philosophy.
Modi himself was an RSS parcharak (preacher). Even now he is a regular visitor to Nagpur where he interacts with the RSS leadership. Some of the ideas he gathers from there are reflected in the policy which his government frames. This has torned the fabric of nation’s secular temperament in the country and given rise to extremist groups in different regions. I only hope that it is a passing phase. But as long as it lasts the preference for sons of the soil will be casting a shadow on the idea of India. This is unfortunate. I hope that the Prime Minister will rethink his policies so that the basic structure of the constitution is no way affected.
—The writer is a veteran Indian journalist, syndicated columnist, human rights activist and author.