The Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh (RSS) the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – the political wing of whose Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the titular head – is rooted in Hindu exceptionalism as the sine qua non for an assertive and a domineering India.
The belief is that India around its Hindu faith is meant to rule the world and other civilizations wrongfully denied to them by the Christians and Muslims over periods of history. India believes it has found its moment under Narendra Modi to assert and realize that promise.
Hindutva is the rallying point around which this new-found thrust for exclusionism of the upper-caste, middle-class Hindu has taken root. The drive within India to assert its singularity expresses itself in physically neutralizing any signs of behaviour, code or custom of the ‘others’ not prescribed by the fundamentalist Hindu faith. That is modern India’s new bane. The around 180 million Indian Muslims and the fighting-for-their-life Kashmiris are the afflictions that must be cleansed per this new Indian iteration. Narendra Modi is the zealous peddler of such bigotry which now defines the state.
Hence the lynchings of Muslims and lowly cow-skinners, the Dalits, and the roasting of the Kashmiris by the state’s merciless forces empowered with special powers. Welcome to Modi’s India.
And he will reign over India for another five years. But thank the genius of Congress’ Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister from 2009-14, for this great leap to making Hindu India great again. Under him, India developed at a remarkable rate, unseen in its history; around 7-8 percent of GDP growth, at times bordering on 9 percent while engendering hopes of touching the magical 10 percent to outdo a competing China. That is when India rose out of an almost entrenched conviction that they were meant to be a dull, low-average citizenry given to an austere life as a civilization.
Indian nationalism found root. This got expressed in a more confident, more arrogant, more defiant and more conscious India. A transformation in society occurred when poor Indians – till then a defining character – were lifted out of poverty to enter the ranks of what was to become a burgeoning middle class. This brought acute nationalism and extravagant Hinduism. Hindu nationalism was thus born.
The moment found Modi. Having risen from a tea-boy to a chief minister of a large, conservative and business-minded state of Gujarat he was steeped in the Hindutva philosophy for a living. A regular cadre of the RSS, he had slowly and surely worked his way into recognition till he reached the helm. He had established credentials of an exceptional(ist) Hindu when he reportedly oversaw the killing of some 1,000 Muslims (some count over 2000) in an orgy of ethno-religious cleansing and unchecked genocide. He was labelled a terrorist and a butcher and denied visas to travel abroad.
Except to China, where he travelled the most as a chief minister and signed business and investment contracts independent of the Indian state to pursue development of Gujarat. Soon the state was a model of progress for the rest of India. Here he was, a Hindu zealot to boot, a chauvinistic exceptional(ist) of the upper-caste Hindu vein, and a leader with a record of unmatched economic progress. It was time to take this model to all of India. The BJP gave him that opportunity and he hasn’t looked back since. He turned into a sophisticated customer of the nationalist brand, ready to practice his art of exclusionism reviving the myth of Aryan supremacy. The dream of a secular and an inclusive India fostered by its founding fathers too was lost in the maze of time.
Everything about Modi is refined. His sartorial preferences and attention to detail as indeed the exactness of his surroundings and the thought-through execution of any of his public persona indicate a man who leaves little to chance. He is a perfectionist to the core and plans to the tee even if to appear casual and informal while interacting with the common people. He has two personas thus: one of a tea-boy past which renders him a commoner with an easy and amenable mannerism; the other of a refined formalist wary of going wrong in public.
When dealing with Modi one is likely to confront both, one who may exercise commonplace charm and another who always has a hidden purpose up his sleeve. His government’s suppression in IOK, his disposition for Pakistan – from choosing Ajit Doval, a former RAW operative as his national security adviser – all point towards a scheming operator with clearly defined objectives to pursue.
Ever considered who the BJP’s (or RSS’) favourite poster-boys from the past? Nathuram Godse, Gandhi’s assassin, who can stir a riot if one were to mention of him in deprecatory terms in India; Sardar Patel, who was a Congress-ite but has since been inducted in the RSS folds for standing up to the Muslims of India and literally showing them the door by agreeing to the division of India; B R Ambedkar, India’s founding law minister who formulated the constitution for being a Dalit and not behaving like one (pun intended) – this made for a convenient election strategy. And then in the modern times, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a softer RSS stalwart who could not win the BJP a second term, and now their prodigious son Narendra Modi, who has successfully converted India into a Hindu nation while ‘other-ising’ everyone else and marching India to the door of the great power league.
That is what the Hindu middle class, Hindu-nationalist has voted for again in 2019. Time magazine is right in labelling him the divider-in-chief but within India these labels have hardly stuck. The world too seems to have gone on at the altar of geopolitical and economic
All this while the economy continues to grow and at no less than seven percent. True, India is undergoing its highest unemployment rates and the farmer has been crushed under waiting for a favour to trickle-down but what prospers instead in today’s India are corporate profits which determine growth and national wealth. Technology in India has little heart for the forgotten and the downtrodden. But that’s a universal truth with 21st century economics.
So not the impoverished and the suicidal farmers, nor the blinded and blood-soaked Kashmiris, or the lynched Muslims, but an India being re-founded on bigotry and hate, shining only on the exterior, will hold sway in this part of the world for another five years. What damage it will cause to the collective psyche of a society which was premised on more egalitarian values will only be known in due course, but for the moment it is Modi’s and RSS’ India which shall be the bane inside and outside of India. It also rings in the demise of a secular and an inclusive state. It’s time to deal with it.