August 15

It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 10th Independence Day address from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort. Whether he will be there to address the 11th is anybody’s guess. But Modi is hopeful. He exuded confidence that ‘he will address the nation from the ramparts next year’. Quite expectedly he painted a rosy picture on all fronts with high claims of growth. He went a bit lyrical about the progress achieved by the country. Every Prime Minister had done so in the past. In the rhetoric of India becoming the third largest economy sounded impressive but he remained silent about India ranking 107 out of 121 countries in hunger index. Daily wage labourers find it increasingly difficult to earn Rs 100 a day in Modi’s digital India. The gospel of an Indian becoming the second richest man in the world means little to them. In his speech Modi talked of inflation without delineating any way-out to contain it.

The figures released on a day before Independence Day–August 15–revealed that retail inflation jumped to a 15-month high of 7.44 percent in July on the back of soaring prices of vegetables and cereals affecting the lower income group people badly. Growth is not accelerating. Incomes are not rising and yet prices of almost all essential commodities consumed by common people are zooming. But Prime Minister was asking his countrymen to share the illusion of India becoming a 5-trillion economy, maybe, during his tenure!

For one thing he may derive comfort from the ‘trillion stories’ but India under his iron heel is regressing from a constitutional democracy to an authoritarian autocracy. Millions of people who live below the poverty line cannot afford to board his Vande Bharat train though he was eloquent enough about modernisation of railways. Why thousands of posts are lying vacant in the railways and other central government departments for years remained unanswered. Unemployment scenario is horrible and no amount of jugglery can create employment. Then dissent is a crime in this biggest show-case of democracy.

Modi has promised affordable housing to jhupri dwellers who are panicky. Private players are coming in a big way to demolish slums to make room for ‘decent’ urban space. The Adani group is said to be the promoter for Mumbai’s biggest slum clearance operation. The poor have very little interest in his utopia of ‘how the coming 5 years are of unprecedented development and a golden moment to realise the dream of India as developed nation by 2024’ when India celebrates 100 years of independence.

Luckily for the people of north east he didn’t forget to mention the tragedy Manipur was facing. He just asked the people of Manipur to maintain peace and resolve the crisis peacefully. But how his party’s divisive policy with subtle backing to a certain community created the burning problem in the first place was carefully avoided.

On 14th August Prime Minister Modi remembered those who lost their lives in the partition-related riots as the nation observed ‘Vibhajan Vibhisika Smriti Divas’ [Partition Horror Remembrance Day]. Modi paid tributes to them and recalled the struggle of those who were uprooted from their homes during the partition in 1947. The day was first observed in 2021 but it was a low- key affair. This time they made it big to get media focus. But his government has not yet granted citizenship right to partition-victims of Bengal.

The partition of India was one of the most defining events in the sub-continent. Bengal and Punjab suffered most. In truth people on both sides of the fence suffered. Partition caused equal sufferings and loss to Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. But observing partition day as ‘horror day’ in a dubious way in reality stokes hatred against the minority community in the country. Around 1 million people lost their lives while 20 million were displaced. The world witnessed the longest migration of refugees in the contemporary history after the Second World War. No doubts wounds of partition continue haunt the third generation of Bengal and Punjab. Instead of healing what Modi’s party is doing is to spread communal passion with an eye to the next parliamentary polls in 2024.


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Vol 56, No. 9, Aug 27 - Sep 2, 2023