India has witnessed a lot of socio-political turmoil over the last few weeks. Not since the early Zia years – in Pakistan – has a South Asian government been accused of spreading such a regressive, politico-religious agenda. The 2014 national elections in India were contested at a time when the
India has witnessed a lot of socio-political turmoil over the last few weeks. Not since the early Zia years – in Pakistan – has a South Asian government been accused of spreading such a regressive, politico-religious agenda.
The 2014 national elections in India were contested at a time when the secular political parties were facing allegations of large-scale corruption and arrogance during the UPA rule from 2009 till 2014.
Promising good governance, the BJP pulled off a heist of epic proportions as its PR machinery successfully wiped off the stains of the 2002 Godhra riots and positioned Narendra Modi as a capable administrator who would usher rapid growth into India.
However, the country was in for a rude shock. In the absence of the towering presence of a Vajpayee, the hawks of the Sangh Parivaar (RSS and its affiliates) took centre stage and unleashed a vicious communal agenda.
Although communal riots have been common throughout South Asia over the last 68 years, what was different was the very public support received by the ‘Hindutva’ organisations in their efforts to saffronise India.
Minister after motor-mouth minister of the central government and the chief minister of Haryana spewed hate, despite feeble public attempts by Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and the BJP’s national president Amit Shah to contain the damage.
The unfortunate public statements embolden the vicious grassroots organisations who go on to harass minority communities, kicking off tit for tat violence that drive the minorities further into the lap of extremist elements within those communities.
A dispassionate analysis reveals that even though the ‘Hindutva’ forces are determined to do so, the probability of India undergoing the same unfortunate transformation that Pakistan went through under Ziaul Haq is low.
India has a democratically elected civilian government. Given the strength of secular institutions and several years of India’s familiarity with secularism, the BJP and its affiliates have met (and will meet) very strong resistance from India’s press and the civil society.
Unlike Zia, the BJP and RSS rely on the electorate to keep supporting them and keep them in power in different states (police is a state subject in India). Now that the Trojan horse is revealed, they will find it difficult to use stealth as a weapon.
There are, however, several problems that need to be addressed first. The secular political parties are still reeling from the spectacular implosion of the Congress Party and its inability to recover from it.
Another problem is that public memory of the loot by the ‘secular’ political parties is still fresh in public memory. The Congress, RJD, DMK, SP and other regional political parties are still stained by charges of corruption and pseudo-secular politics.
The ‘secular’ political parties are themselves guilty of using vote bank politics and supporting the regressive leaders among minorities. To compound their follies, they have also peddled soft ‘Hindutva’ where it suited them.
Durga Puja celebrations have been banned for the last three years by the local administration in the Hindu majority Nalhati village in the Birbhum district of West Bengal owing to pressure from the Muslim community. Tensions had flared up over an earlier cow slaughter ban imposed by the local administration to appease the Hindus.
Another problem, as pointed out by noted journalist Ravish Kumar recently, is that the liberals in India are lazily denouncing ‘Hindutva’ from their cosy living rooms while the ‘Hindutva’ organisations are spreading their message at the grassroots level.
The fragmented secular organisations and the media need to regroup and counter this assault by hate peddlers, and they need to do it fast. There will be conflicts of interest but they need to rise above their narrow outlooks.
A window of opportunity has risen as the government reels from spectacular protests and return of prestigious national awards by more than a hundred scientists and intellectuals, several filmmakers, artists and writers. They need to grab the opportunity and consolidate their efforts to reclaim India from the dark forces.
The writer is an IT professional, anddevelopment and peace activist based in Ghaziabad, India.