Modi, a poor shadow of his promises

Published: March 9, 2015
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A statue of India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, at a temple erected in his honour. PHOTO: AFP

If you go against your natural instinct, you end up regretting later. In the 2014 general elections, many in India cast their ballots for Narendra Modi, despite having great reservations about him. They wanted to give the man a chance to prove his critics wrong. Despite being aware of his divisive politics and his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, a large section of the Indian population voted for him with the hope that he is a reformed man and will initiate progressive politics in Delhi once he assumes power.

Nine months into the government, Modi inspires a deep regret amongst a large section of people who supported him with the hope of seeing a new kind of politics in the country. There are many who repent going against their instinct in backing a man who has a dubious political past.

A man who rode to power to usher in new economic reforms and lead the country to a new progressive trajectory is a poor shadow of his promises. Forget about the promised economic reforms, he represents what the sceptics feared most – a divisive polity and upsurge of radical Hindu right-wing forces all across the country. We do not want to judge him by what he did in his past but we want to assess what he is today – a close reading reveals that the man remains the same. His world remains as provincial, narrow and sectarian as it was when he was the leader of Gujarat.

Modi’s journey from Gandhinagar to New Delhi is a great leap forward in his political history. But the geographical shift from the regional capital to a national capital has not brought any substantive change in his politics. He remains a man wedded to anti-minority ideology. Directly and indirectly, he has managed to inspire and strengthen anti-Muslim sentiments across the country.

‘Beefing’ up the hate

The latest comes from the western Indian state of Maharashtra, a state which voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government just a few months ago. Recently, the Hindu right-wing government banned beef eating in the state. This decision is not inspired by any love for cow or cattle but plain hatred for the Muslim community. It is a brazen attempt to manipulate Hindu sentiments on the issue of the cow, an animal revered by the majority community. The ideology that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological mentor and political patron, promotes Muslims as the “others”. It considers Muslims as second class citizens, alien people not rooted in the Hindu ethos of the country. This worldview informs the BJP.

The ban, in fact, makes each and every Muslim in Maharashtra a criminal for touching beef, a meat they eat with abandon. There are many Muslims who survive on selling cattle meat.

If the ban is an affront to Muslims, it is also an attack on their economic wellbeing as well as an attempt to perpetuate stereotype against the largest minority in the country. India is one of the leading exporters of beef but the beef meat is mostly from buffalo, a fact not revealed to the masses. Besides, it is not only Muslims, but Dalits, Christians, a section of the lower caste Hindus who also eat the meat because it is cheaper than other non-vegetarian items.

Jobless in India

The BJP government in Maharashtra also did away with the five per cent reservations for Muslims in government jobs. Aimed at uplifting the conditions of poorer sections of the Muslim community, the affirmative action was at attempt to bring the marginalised into the economic mainstream. Such decisions obviously indicated a brazen anti-Muslim bias of the BJP against the minority in the country. It’s an attack on their economy and their culture.

Posing for trouble

The same animosity towards Muslims was displayed in Mangalore, a city in Karnataka, where a Muslim boy was beaten up by some Hindu vigilante group because he was seen to be posing with some Hindu girls in the school. There were three boys in the group but only one was singled out because he belonged to the religion other than Hinduism. The area is known for such moral policing and has been in the news for its anti-Muslim acts.

Boycott the Khans!

BJP leader Sadhvi Prachi’s statement that Hindus should boycott movies by Khan actors in Bollywood as they promote ‘Love Jihad’ also demonstrates how deep the anti-minorities agenda runs in BJP’s DNA. Modi’s rise has further fuelled such elements.

Mother Teresa’s crime

The RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat recently attacked Nobel Laureate, Mother Teresa. He raised doubts over credibility of Mother Teresa’s work and termed her as a missionary dedicated to converting people to Christianity. Coming from the individual whose writ runs unchallenged both in the RSS and the BJP, the statement further accentuates Hindu right-wing’s adversarial relationship with all the minority groups in the country.

The opinion of the fringe groups would generally go unnoticed during the previous regime but their hyper activism comes under media radar quite frequently nowadays. The reason is that they belong to the same ideological family and background as the present ruling party and its chief.

In this background, Modi’s talk about religious harmony is just empty rhetoric.

The on-going campaign of ghar wapsi or reconverting those who forsook the Hindu faith generations ago is one more example of how the Gujarat strongman’s rise to power in Delhi has not been good news for Indian minority communities.

India = Hindu

Ever since Modi has become prime minister of India, he has chosen to appoint individuals with strong sectarian mind-set to run government institutions and bodies. They have spent their lifetime working for the RSS and nurture an idea of India where Hindus have a predominant place. Modi has a clear design – to convert India into a Hindu state. He says that his government has only one religion and that is India first.

What does “India” mean for him exactly?

One does not need to go in too deep to analyse his statement and understand that his India means Hindu. His “India first” means “Hindu first”.

The recent attack on Christians, concerted campaign against Muslims by Hindu right-wing forces having close affiliations with the BJP, promotion of the people with sectarian mind-set in premium government institutions, patronisation of those Hindu radical groups who make brazen anti-Muslim and anti-minority statements, all these indicate that Modi remains the same as he was before.

With his aggressive campaigning, he lured India’s vast middle class into believing that his regime would herald an era of economic reforms and prosperity. His talk of development and aggressive nationalism is just a trap to capture the fancy of the middle-class.

Within one year of his government, the mask has come off.

India is paying the price for going against its instinct.

sanjay.kumar

Sanjay Kumar

The author is a New Delhi based journalist covering South Asian and international politics. He tweets as @destinydefier (twitter.com/destinydefier).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.