India has never looked as divided, as communally vulnerable, as broken as it does now

Published: December 1, 2018
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Hindu hardliners have been calling for a Ram temple to be built on the site of the Babri Mosque, which was demolished in 1992. PHOTO: AFP

Narendra Modi, a serial communalist, assumed the mask of an inclusive figure just before the 2014 Elections to make him more acceptable to the masses. The myth he came to weave around himself five years ago made him seem like a man of development – the only mission in his life being to usher in a new era of economic reform in India.

It is now 2018, and the mask and the myth are both in tatters. The one and only colour Modi has is called saffron – the colour of the majoritarian Hindu. It’s now known to one and all that the only politics Modi knows is the politics of divisiveness.

After all, India has never looked as divided, as communally vulnerable, and as broken as it does now. Economically too, the country looks to be a wounded nation. People have never looked at banks with as much suspicion as they do today. They have never felt so insecure about their hard-earned money as they feel now. Foreign investment is at an all-time low, export has not made any progress in the last four-and-a-half years, while the informal economy – the backbone of the system – is rendered completely useless. The government, in order to hide its failures, has started fudging with the gross domestic product (GDP) data to create another myth: higher growth. The GDP data has never looked this untrustworthy either, which is why the international community is also unwilling to accept the government figures at their face value.

How does a ruling party win an election when it doesn’t have anything substantial to show to the people?

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a time-tested formula of winning elections despite a lack of progress, and that is by polarising the voters. And Modi is polarisation personified.

In Gujarat, when he was the chief minister of the western Indian state, he managed to swing all three elections the province fought in his favour by injecting a heavy dose of division in the people. The state has become a laboratory of polarisation. Over time, Modi and his party have only wanted to try this trick at the national level.

The emergence of temple politics at the far end of his first political inning in Delhi signifies the BJP want to use the divisive Ram Temple and Babri Masjid issue to gain votes in the 2019 Elections, which otherwise will not belong to the party due to its lack of performance.

However, if one looks at the Modi regime over the past four-and-a-half years, one will realise the government has never actually focused on what people call development. The Hindu right-wing party has been working on a very specific agenda of ‘Hinduising’ the country, by turning what used to be a secular nation into a majoritarian project.

Love jihad, lynching in the name of beef consumption, banning meat shops in Uttar Pradesh (UP), introducing Hindu motifs at public places, changing the pre-Partition names of cities, rewriting history and the almost negligible representation of Muslims in the government and its policies, all clearly indicate the direction this government was headed towards right from the day it took oath in May 2014.

Never before in the history of independent India has a party come to power without having a single Muslim face. In fact, the party blatantly claims to not represent Muslims, and this mindset reflects in the way the government runs.

There is a new breed of media today that complements the government in its sectarian agenda. A large section of private TV channels are operating in India that work as henchmen for the BJP in Delhi. The by-product of this constant media propaganda is the slow and steady radicalisation of common people. As a result, the middle class and a large section of the masses feel unconcerned about the siege the Muslim minority of India is in.

The politics of the temple, therefore, is simply in continuation of the divisive thought-process gripping the Modi-led government.

Last week, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) or the World Hindu Congress organised a large gathering at the disputed site in Ayodhya in UP, and this mobilisation managed to get maximum optics in India. The VHP want the BJP to build the Ram Temple at the disputed site where the Babri Masjid was demolished by Hindu fanatics in 1992. Otherwise, they threatened that the BJP will no longer remain in power. The Supreme Court is currently looking into the matter.

People are questioning why the BJP remembers the temple issue only at the time of elections, but the answer is obvious: so it can win them.

Modi never utters a word. He does not bother condemning this open and defiantly divisive politics. His silence is all the endorsement his divisive politics needs. The party touched the national consciousness and acquired the entire country’s attention mainly by playing the temple card.

In the 80s and 90s, the BJP exploited the Babri Masjid matter and the resultant polarisation yielded a great harvest for the party. In 1984, the party had only two parliamentarians but soon enough it became a predominant party. It now hopes to retain its base by playing divisive politics as it has thus far.

However, Modi knows the mask and the myth have both unravelled, and one can only hope the rest of India will catch up soon enough.

sanjay.kumar

Sanjay Kumar

The author is a New Delhi based journalist covering South Asian and international politics.

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

  • Patwari

    Thank you for shining the light on the Vermilion Lord and his strategy. Modi Sarkar is on par
    with Hitler. It just a matter of time when there will be concentration camps for Muslims. And other
    minorities, also called Undesirable Races and Castes. Like the Untouchables and,..ooops! who will clean the sewers if the Untouchables are all incarcerated??!? A conundrum for Amit Shah.
    There is already one concentration camp, holding 12 million inmates. Called Hindustani Occupied Kashmir.
    Or you can call it Bharat’s Vietnam. There is no winning here. It’s a drip, drip, drip on Hindustan’s
    treasury. Remember, the Vietnamese won. So will the Kashmiris. Rest assured. Guaranteed.
    There is not much left in Shiv Sena’s, BJP’s or the Mothership, Rashtreya Swayamsevak Sangh’s bag of tricks. Except smoke and mirrors and jadoo.Recommend

  • Gagan

    You keep on thinking about us, writing negative about us, and so on and so forth…. The fact is India is growing and all Indian are growing along…. You keep on sheilding your assets (terrorists) and you will realise a decade after…Recommend

  • Parvez

    Interesting view point ……. Nationalism on steroids does seem to work at election time and to divide and rule is not new. Unless the opposition has a ‘ story ‘ that the people are willing to buy, the incumbent government will prevail …… and as a distant observer the opposition lacks leadership thus it is unable to tell its ‘ story ‘ IF it has one.
    How this will play out In the coming few years is hard to predict……but history has shown that the logical progression of nationalism on steroids is not good.Recommend

  • Yogi Berra

    Well. The truth will come out soon. There are state elections going on now and in March India will have federal elections. If Modi loses this election then we will assume this writer is telling truth. If he wins then we know the writer just telling lies. I will go by concrete facts. Not based on one man’s opinion.Recommend

  • Rajesh Rao

    I read it with interest until I got to “Economically too, the country looks to be a wounded nation”. Then I realized what this article is – a troll piece commissioned by and written for Pakistanis.
    For Pakistanis, their misery is made bearable by the thought that India and Indians is/are in an even worse state than them. This article is in service of that goal.Recommend

  • Jabberr Saira

    as a pakistani american i too felt that way but this is typical of both nations and their media. Both of the countries report about the other in the same manner unfortunately. Pakistan and India but then it all depends on culture. Living here in USA we often read this about our own country or countries aboard who are in crisis so its not look upon negatively. But I get you.Recommend

  • abhi

    well said, this is remarkable how easily you are able to identify propaganda from truth.Recommend

  • abhi

    This article is a joke. Is there any such word as “serial communalist”? What about serial liar mr Gandhi, who has now become more hindu than others ?Recommend

  • gp65

    I have always believed in secularism – i.e. equal opportunities and rights for all regardless of religion, gender, language or caste. I would imagine that I represent the majority and not minority in India. What has led to people being very annoyed with Congress is appeasement of minority leaders (i.e. various mullahs without actually doing anything for those in minority who are poor).
    For the initial few years, the impact in India of partition was opposite to that of Pakistan. IT was considered politically incorrect to openly practice one’s religion if one were part of majority but gestures to the minority were a norm. For example, it was common to have an Iftar party hosted by the PM while no Diwali party was ever held. The current PM holds neither an Iftar party nor a Diwali party and this is often described as nationalism on steroids. It is also noted that when a Hindu kills a Muslim there is almost 24×7 reporting for days at an end while when the reverse happens, English media does not report it creating a deliberate impression that minorities are under siege when the actual metrics show that deaths due to communal violence have actually reduced not increased under the current government.
    BJP’s opposition is so focused on seeing its electoral successes as an outcome of nationalism that it has failed to notice that 10 crore toilets were built, 33 crore people were given basic no fee bank accounts, more 13 crore people who never had access to electricity now have that and further many more crores experience far fewer hours of load shedding. All villages have been linked with the district with pucca all weather roads and 2 crore families (almost 10 crore people) have benefited from the PM Awas yojana (Awas means home) where the poor people have been given interest subsidies. 5 years of double digit inflation which robbed the daily wagers and retired people of their purchasing power, has been stamped out.
    It is most likely that Modi government will win again in 2019 though with fewer seats than earlier (which would not be a bad thing. One does not want a government to be complacent), not because of nationalism on steroids but the development for the most poor and neglected who will reward him for not neglecting them yet againRecommend

  • Parvez

    Thanks for the explanation……and with the little contact I have with my
    cousins and other distant relatives who are mainly in Mumbai, I get the impression that much good is happening especially on the economic front that is slowly trickling down. It is a bit astonishing that the BJP appears not to be showcasing this aspect …… but playing the cards of what I call the ” nationalism on steroids ” coupled with divide and get votes. I am simply stating what I observe and most probably am wrong, but the BJP thinking appears to be ‘ …if the strategy worked before, it should work again ‘.Recommend

  • Patwari

    If YOU cannot stand firmly in your beliefs, instead of wavering on the wall,
    then what is the point?
    Mission statement of BJP directly dictated from the ‘Mothership’ Rashtreya Swayamsevak Sangh is :- Hindustan is for Hindus Only. There is no room for any others. That includes all minorities. Read Bal Thackeray.
    Modi Sarkar was a worker, street agitator of RSS before he joined a more acceptable faction of RSS,…known as BJP. There is no telling what other extremists he supported. Like Shiv Sena, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena [who threw ink on authors and burned the sets of the movie Padmaavat and put a price on the head of movie director Sanjay Leela Bhansali]
    These are the same people who said if any artists from Pakistan are hired
    they would burn the studios, kill the producers, directors and set fire to the movie houses, venues, etc.
    We are talking Fawad Khan, Mahira Khan, Ali Zafar, Saba Qamar etc. What did these Pak artists do to deserve such sick treatment?
    Modi Sarkar did not get the title ‘Butcher of Gujrat’ for no reason at all. Remember all his visas were suspended by every single western country. Including the US. He presided over a Muslim massacre, for 3 days..
    After World War Two the Germans people claimed they did not know what was going on. They were remorseful.When they, in fact, elected Hitler and his cabal, and supported him again and again and again…
    So a handful are leading a nation of 2 billion!?! And dictating to masses?Recommend

  • Parvez

    …..and you are entitled to your view point. Just as I am to my ” middle of the road ” view point. I prefer to see myself as a pragmatist…..because going off the deep end gets one nowhere.Recommend

  • Patwari

    That’s not pragmatism. That’s selling out. Never having a firm stand.
    Being wishy washt, wimpy, for lack of a better word. Others, moving
    the goal posts, comes to mind. Do you even know what deep end means?
    As your contemporary Tipu Sultan and Baghirati Sapre said :-
    quote ‘better to live one day like a tiger, than to live a 1000 years like
    a jackal’ unquote.Recommend

  • Sane

    Concrete facts shall be known after election results. Now, there could be opinions only. Opinions are not lies.Recommend

  • Yogi Berra

    Vested left/liberal interests are trying very hard to defame Modi government. They will fail. After 2019 Modi will remain PM of India. Left and Liberals will be crestfallen.Recommend

  • gp65

    The impression that BJP is a) Not capitalizing the socioeconomic progress b) focusing on divide and rule – is certainly a reasonable impression for anyone reading English media. If you listen to actual speeches by Modi or Amit Shah to large crowds, they will be speaking about economic development. Many speeches are available on youtube. You select any full speech and listen. It maybe an hour long. Of course there might be one or two sentences that English media may highlight and make controversial out of context but if you listen to the full speech 98% of the conversation relates to a) The current progress and future vision b) Rebutting Congress accusations and in turn accusing Congress. This is what you would expect. The slogan in 2014 was not about any communal issue but rather ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikaas’.
    It is Congress and other parties that push for reservation along the lines of caste, language and religion which divide the nation. All the economic schemes of Modi are based on a means test – there is no caste, religion test.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Thank you for your views …… obviously you are sitting at one end of the political spectrum and many others at the other end are painting a bit of an alarmist picture. Me being me, I feel the truth lies somewhere in between.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Madam I have responded….but again either ET or the net has eaten it up….sorry.Recommend