For a long time now I have contained my rage which has been provoked by what is happening in
today, and it concerns the future of India as a nation and as a country. India
Indians are offering a man the coveted and powerful chair of the country’s Prime Minister under whose watch a state-sponsored pogrom resulted in the murder of several thousand innocent citizens. At the same time, they are branding an honest citizen activist a ‘fugitive’ who abandoned a state’s chief ministerial post simply because the establishment did not allow him to pass a tough anti-corruption law.
The one accused of ‘mass murder’ is a hero, worthy of being crowned a king. The man of principles, an anti-corruption crusader, is a laughing stock. The sitting Oxbridge-educated Prime Minister is a dummy head, a man stoically blind to the corrupt in his own ranks, clinging to his post at the cost of his dwindling reputation.
Is this the state of the nation that nationalist Indian leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and Abul Kalam Azad had envisaged when they laid down the foundations of a free
in 1947? India
Today, the country is divided on the lines of caste and religion and on top of that, no opportunity is lost in abusing the sane and the secular, online or offline. How did
arrive at this shameful juncture of history? (See
this open letter by Indian intellectuals in The Guardian: If Modi is elected,
it will bode ill for India's future.) India
At stake—The idea of
While the nation is presently going through its most decisive elections in its 70 year old democratic history, what is at stake is the very idea of
: the idea that fueled the struggle for India ’s India , culminating in the establishment of a free,
democratic, socialist and secular Independence . Republic of India
This idea of
was based on the principles of equality and inclusiveness,
on the ideals of secularism and equal respect to all religions and creeds. It
was, what Mohammad Iqbal once called, a poetic idea, sophisticated beyond its
time and place. India
As Indian historian Ramchandra Guha has noted in his book, The Makers of Modern India, Indian democracy is unique in the sense that
became a nation and a democracy at the same time,
and five different types of revolutions are going on in India simultaneously. What’s been happening in India since India is what took Independence Europe a couple of centuries and the nearly 200 years to achieve. There, it happened in
stages. Here, it is happening all at once, and hence, the seeming chaos of United States , which often makes us despondent and hopeless
about India ’s future. India
The poetic idea of India had emerged a winner after defeating a couple of other competing ideas—ideas of a communist state (class-based politics), of a federation of states based on religion (Iqbal and Jinnah’s religious and cultural identity-based politics), and of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ propagated by right wing Hindu groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Hindu Mahasabha.
If Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wins the parliamentary elections this year, it is the last idea, the idea of
being a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ envisioned by far right
Hindu nationalists that will come to prevail. This once-defeated idea of India will be revived with a Naipaulian revenge. India
The Rise of Narendra Modi
In this battle to rule
, according to the opinion polls and ground
reports, Narendra Modi, BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, seems to have an
edge over all other contenders. Why is he is so popular, both inside and
outside India among the Hindus? India
A lot has been written about this charismatic Hindu rightwing leader from
Gujarat—about his humble rise from his tea-selling days to his political
stranglehold over Gujarat as a Chief Minister, his powers of oratory, his
no-nonsense decision-making, his sex appeal, and so on. The list is countless
if you hear to Modi’s acolytes and fan boys.
How did a mediocre man like Modi become the darling of the Indian masses (or that is what we are being led to believe at this point of time)? Is it because contemporary Indians love mediocrity?
Interestingly, Modi is not foreign-educated or highly educated like most of
’s Prime Ministers have been. He is a son of the
same soil which gave birth to Mahatma Gandhi, and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the
founding father of India . It is quite possible that millions of Indians
love him because of his image of a self-made man who can bring change and
economic development and ride roughshod over minority rights (which hardly matters
in their consciousness). The last point is important because whenever anything
is done to favour the Muslims or to ameliorate their condition, BJP brands it
as Muslim appeasement, and not secularism. Modi’s hardliner, ‘popular’ image
has been created with the help of the media, by spending millions of rupees (Rs.
5,000 crores, according to Aam Aadmi Party) on advertisements and public
I was raised as a secular kid in
, and for a long time, I could not understand how a
political party like BJP was allowed to exist in India . BJP is the political offshoot of the RSS, the
Hindu right wing outfit whose ideologies had inspired Nathuram Godse to kill
Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. Godse was a member of the RSS. India
In that sense, BJP’s inherent ideology should be seen as against the Constitution of India. How could the Election Commission of India look the other way and not ban the party? I could not understand this and later on I put it to the strong traditions of
’s political pluralism. India
Meanwhile, very methodically, whatever remained of the Muslim leadership was wiped out of
. Muslim leaders were discouraged (and even discredited)
by all political parties. Muslims were left to be led by Non-Muslim leaders who
had to strike a balance between their Hindu supporters and their Muslim voters.
This led to the persistent and pernicious growth of the vote bank politics. Both
the Indian National Congress (INC) and the BJP stand accused of perpetuating this
malpractice. Something similar has happened on the lines of caste too, but a
generation of successful caste-based leaders has emerged. This has largely
benefitted the low-caste Hindus. India
As far as the meaningful participation of minorities in Indian politics is concerned, the answer does not lie in stoking the fires of communal politics but of deepening secularism in the political space.
How is this possible?
At the same time, as the state’s television stations that preached religious tolerance and social unity became irrelevant, heavily Hinduised television programmes created a generation of Indians whose spiritual ethos find an echo in Modi’s image of a Hindu Samrat. For example, it is not surprising that Smriti Irani, a popular TV actress who played the role of a Hindu housewife in an extremely popular TV serial (Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi) and the role of Sita (in Zee TV’s Ramayan) is now a senior leader of the right-wing BJP.
BJP has been very active in making Indians believe in their idea of
. Slowly but surely they have chipped away at the
idea of Indian secularism with a sustained effort. They believe in overt
expression of religion on politics and now Modi talks about ‘Indianness’ before
anything else. Whenever he is questioned about secularism, he invokes
‘Indianness’. This is nothing but hollow demagoguery. India
Even this could be fine but there is a hitch and that is the Indian Constitution. If BJP can take out the word ‘secular’ from the Indian Constitution, it can do whatever it wants. No one will ask any questions on secularism then.
Meanwhile, Narendra Modi’s electoral promise is growth and economic progress. One wonders how this will be possible when the incumbent Indian Prime Minister, an economist by training and a former World Bank official, has overseen the faltering of the once-strong Indian economy (See this Forbes story: Even Narendra Modi May Not Be Able To Help The Indian Economy). Moreover, BJP’s economic policies are no different from Congress’ (See this Forbes story: BJP Will Ban FDI In Retail But Offers Other Goodies To Business). They are the votaries of the same neoliberal policies that have led to
’s development, and inter alia the problems of inflation, price rise, and crony
capitalism. Revealingly, if only economic development is the BJP’s election
mantra, why has the party put rebuilding of the India at the controversial site in Ayodhya on its manifesto?
Won’t it alienate the Muslims of India? Ram Temple
But how do you explain all this to the 800 million Indians who might see this complex situation in very simple terms: Congress and its allies have ruled for ten years. It is time to give the other party a chance.
This proves only one thing. That democracy is still in its infancy in
. If you don’t believe me, just go to any
constituency. In most places, you will see electoral candidates, often from
rich and political families, touring the area like a price visiting the hoi
polloi. If politics is a business in India , what does it make Indian democracy? A
My fear is that because of
’s size, India will remain ungovernable (Indian population being
three times the population of India ). Confusion of multiparty democracy, communalism
and casteism, poverty and illiteracy make the situation even worse. I don’t
think even a Lee Kwan Yew could set United States right. Only time will show us the true path. Until
then, we will keep making mistakes. India
My fear is that minority politics will survive in
as long as minorities maintain their unique
identity. Once they start merging their identities with the majority community,
politics of caste and religion will melt away. “Poverty makes people create
differences,” India ’s former President APJ Abdul Kalam said in a recent interview.
“Sometimes poverty drives these differences. But economic prosperity and higher
literacy will make us forget our differences. Economic prosperity is fine but
will Muslims accept it at the cost of their religious identity? India
As far as those who believe in Gandhi’s and Nehru’s idea of a secular
, they should not lose hope. They should do
whatever they can to strengthen their idea of India , just as the right wing works tirelessly to
strengthen their idea of India . India
It should not surprise anyone if Modi wins the elections. If a George Bush could win the Presidential elections in the
for two terms, why can’t a Modi win in United States ? India has survived Bush. America is a 5,000 year old civilization. She will survive
Clearly, a Hindu nationalist party’s interests lie in keeping the nation divided. Thankfully, a good sign for
’s future is the twin rise of the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party like a India DNA’s double helix. One will neutralize the other.
That’s where my hope lies. And like Tagore said, in the end, does not belong to Hindus or Muslims. India belongs to humanity and when the dust of history
settles, and when we are rid of our vanity, India will be claimed by humanity. India