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Modi In Power Again

Whither Hindu Nationalism?

Ram Puniyani

The failure of the BharatiyaJanata Party(BJP) to get past 272 has brought back the National Democratic Alliance( NDA) to the forefront. While Vajpayee came to power and led the NDA Government in 1998, still there was a strong imprint of the BJP politics in the Government. Among other things that were part of the Hindutva agenda at that time was the appointment of the Venkatchaliah Commission to review the Constitution and Saffronisation of the textbooks and the introduction of courses in astrology and Paurohitya (Rituals) in the curriculum. Twice, in 2014 and 2019, Modi came to power as NDA but as BJP on its own had an overwhelming majority the other components of the Government were on the ‘silent mode’ and BJP aggressively launched its Hindu nationalist agenda, the building of Ram Temple and abolition of article 370. In addition, the fringe elements killing Muslims on the pretext of cow beef and love jihad had a free hand, enjoying impunity from the state.

In the other authoritarian streaks of Modi Government, the subordination of Constitutional institutions was very dominating along with the role of conversion of Media into Godi media. All this did make the opposition wake up and come together as INDIA. Despite this formation coming into being Modi and BJP centered their election propaganda around anti-Muslim rhetoric. Starting from the propaganda that the Congress manifesto was labelled as having the imprint of the Muslim League, most other slogans and promises of Congress were turned into being presented as appeasement of Muslims. Muslims were called Ghuspathiye (infiltrators) and had more children. Modi’s propaganda reached a new low when he said Congress would do mujra (a dance that emerged during Mughal rule) for them. Also, it was said that If Congress comes to power terrorists will be released and invited to have Biryani, Taliban rule will be established.

The system has been so tuned that the names of many Muslims do not find a place in electoral rolls, at election booths, many Muslims are turned away by the police. Muslims have been effectively turned into second-class citizens and have been made politically invisible. All this intensifies the prevalent hate against this hapless community.

With this background as the BJP failed to reach the propagated 400 par for NDA and more than 370 for BJP, there was a big sigh of relief in the community. As the results came and Modi declared himself as the next Prime Minister, he toned down his language to recall ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhav’ (Equal respect for all religions). This sounded like the sort of peak of hypocrisy in light of what happened to Muslims (and Christians) during the last ten years.

What is in store for this community in times to come? A small relief is possible as probably the impunity enjoyed by the fringe elements may be slightly curtailed. There is a big if as the fringe elements by now are too much rooted in the system. Whether allies like Niteesh and Naidu will be able to raise their voice against this scattered anti-Muslim violence is yet to be seen. How effective they can be against the strong-arm tactics of the Modi party, only time will tell. The hate spread by the Hindu nationalists is so widespread that it may not be easy to curtail it.

It is likely that the third pillar of Hindutva politics, the Uniform Civil Code, may be deferred in all probability. The CAA, which discriminates against Muslims is like a hanging sword and time alone will tell people how much pressure the BJP will put to implement it. Surely after the remarkable ShaheenBagh movement, the communal party BJP will not insist on it unless they feel through experience that they can bulldoze their way despite the Naidu and Niteesh, who are more tactical in these matters. Already BJP has allied with Naidu who had initiated four percent reservation for Muslims.

The other major issue of caste census, to which BJP is opposed, may have to be rethought as it was Niteesh as CM of Bihar, where this was initiated and there is a strong national sentiment for it. There are no buyers for Modi's propaganda that the INDIA alliance will remove the reservations for SC/ST/OBC and give them to Muslims.

What can one expect about the Muslim's social, political, and economic conditions? The hate spread against this community by the RSS combine has sunk deep into the social thinking. By default Muslim thinking has become part of average perceptions of the society. The consistent work of this RSS combine has gone up exponentially due to the other associates, the changes in textbooks, the role of media, and the word-of-mouth spread of misconceptions.

These myths, and misconceptions are the solid pillars on which Hate is constructed and due to prevalent hate against Muslims, violence and subsequent polarisation are brought in. While the role of RSS in the 2024 elections needs further analysis, it is RSS machinations that keep pumping up the Hate against Muslims and now from the last two decades against Christians also. Interestingly the number of RSS shakhas during Modi rule has more than doubled during the last ten years. One suspects that in a state like Orissa where Kandhamal violence took place and Pastor Stains was burnt alive, the roots of BJP’s political rise were watered and now people see its results.

While in Kerala, the BJP does win over a section of Christians for various reasons, nationally Christians are on the target of Hindu nationalist politics, as seen by the rising sub-radar attacks on prayer meetings of Christians.

All said and done the marginalisation of Muslims will continue. It is not easy to undo the deep polarisation introduced into society due to the work done by this organisation. What RSS has been doing was well diagnosed by India’s first Home Minister SardarVallabhbhai 8Patel, when he wrote, “All their speeches were full of communal poison, as a result of the poison the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji” (Writing after banning of Sangh in 1948). This aspect of our political life was not curtailed-combated and it grew into a multi-headed hydra using every opportunity to intensify the religious division in the society.

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Vol 57, No. 1, Jun 30 - Jul 6, 2024