The public debate on beef and the ban on the meat were tantamount to how the Hindu way of life was being promote by the ruling establishment at the cost of pluralism. The romote of yoga on a national and international level was another example of how the Modi regime favored one side of India’s syncretic and cosmopolitan heritage over others.
The BJP government under Mr Vajpayee which ruled the country between 1998 and 2004 also tried to propagate the Hindu nationalist agenda, but then they did it so cautiously. This changed since Modi came to power as an aggressive push to this Hindutva agenda was made. The rewriting of history textbooks also demonstrated how fiercely the BJP govt was moving towards its cultural agenda.
The govt made a concerted effort to alter the history text books in order to become the sole spokesperson for Hindus and promote a skewed majoritarian history and in process also discarding the long legacy of Islamic influence and presence in country.
The BJP leaders failed to condemn the killing of rationalists like Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and Narendra Dhabolkar and it never condemned the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri who was suspected of keeping beef at his house. Last year, it also failed to respond when prominent writers, artistes and historians returned their national awards in protest over the increasing intolerance in the country.
Amir Khan, the Bollywood superstar had to face the ire of Modi bhakts when during an award function in the national capital he said that he was alarmed by a number of incidents and his wife Kiran Rao even suggested that they should probably leave the country. This clearly demonstrated that Modi’s sole interest lies in advancing his own distorted image of India as the predominant narrative at the expense of one which respects the age-old multiculturalism and promotes secularism. Mr Modi meanwhile keeps on talking about development and economic well-being of the country but the party which he heads talks in disparate voices and indulges into sectarian politics. The central leadership was silent on most of contentious issues which also became a standard political strategy.
Renowned historian and biographer Ramchandra Guha said that Indian pluralism is facing one of its greatest threats from religious chauvinists who were bent upon to undermine it. While speaking on the launch of his book, Guha said India’s adoption of entirely different model of nationalism saved it from its imminent disintegration as had been predicted by many eminent intellectuals.
Guha said a true nationalist must possess a sense of shame for the crimes committed by his govt and should also accept the fact that his country is not perfect rather than worshipping a symbol and remaining committed only to hoisting of flags. Indian nationalism is not adversarial like our neighbor Pakistan but unfortunately BJP’s nationalism is the mirror image of Pakistani nationalism. An Indian nationalist will be someone who cherishes the value of the Indian constitution and should also be the critique of the failures of his govt.
The development and Gujarat model employed as election mascots were only meant to conceal the ground reality of the campaign which primarily focused on the communal polarization. It was, therefore, natural that the landslide BJP’s victory would lead to the aggressive pursuit of the RSS pet project of converting the secular democratic Indian republic into their own version of a rabidly intolerant Hindu Rashtra. The RSS, which always stood against the very idea of India as a pluralistic society of rich diversity, is seeking to nullify the vibrancy of the mosaic that distinguishes our country.
Within a few weeks of the new Modi govt coming to power, those who argued during the election campaign that BJP is downplaying its communal agenda, were feeling deceived and, thus, silenced. The thrust of BJP’s Hindutva agenda was the abrogation of article 370,Union Civil Code, building of Ram temple at Ayodhya have all been articulated by various cabinet rank ministers and RSS leaders.
A minister from Goa also said that with the BJP’s victory, the process of establishing a Hindu Rashtra has begun. At the ground level, this was clearly reflected in the sharpening of communal tensions across the country which lead to brutal riots in some places taking the life of innocent citizens. Only time will tell as how far divisionary politics of Modi will pan out in long run but the year ahead will see a bitter struggle for the soul of India.
DISCLAIMER: Views expressed above are the author’s own.