The turmoil over a right-wing agenda in India today ?

This is probably one of the most controversial topics in the country right now, so another post on this is not going to increase or decrease the controversy to any great extent. For the past many years, before the BJP came to power, there was a perception that was increasing gaining ground in the country that the Congress regime was pandering to the Muslim community to the extent that it was easy to flog the concept that the Congress had an anti-Hindu tilt. This was an allegation that the BJP was able to quite easily take advantage of, and played some role in the overall victory of the BJP and the decimation of the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls of 2014.
However, there has always been some worry about some of the groups that are part of the entire structure of the RSS backed front, with the BJP being the political front, and some groups such as the VHP and the Bajrang Dal being much more vehement in propagating their vision of Hindutva, and where Indian society and politics should be moving towards. Even during the UPA reign, there were times when they caused tensions between the BJP and these organizations, but the presence of a central Government not run by the BJP prevented them from going overboard. However, things got more shaky when the BJP came to power. Ever since the riots in Muzzafarnagar, it was clear that one of the vote-getting policies of the BJP was to create a divide in society (or to be more accurate, cause polarization of the vote bank, with one section of the vote bank then voting in favor of the BJP). But there was a hope that the Government would realize that the primary reason why the BJP was voted in to power was because the population believed that the BJP would bring in development and help in the reduction of corruption; and bring in drastic reform.

Well, the promise of drastic reform has fallen by the wayside (the caveat being that many commentators believe that drastic reform would not have worked, instead the policy being followed by the Modi Government is the way to go). What has also come to the forefront is the concept of the Government (or even more important, the BJP machine, since it is being done in states ruled by the BJP) bringing in many measures that seek to enforce its policies through the system. Some of these are very disappointing (although many state that it was foolish to expect the BJP to be different); one area in which the BJP had been critical of the Congress was the concept of putting people who are the favorites of the Congress in various official positions, these being Governors, or being heads of many other institutions. However, the BJP is exactly doing the same thing, and even worse, it does not even disdain to listen to any voice of dissent, and tries to quash words of dissent on social media (you need to see the comments on many social media sites when somebody is critical of the BJP – seems like everybody critical is either a Muslim, or a porki, or something similar).
So, the Governors are all BJP politicians (well almost all), people appointed to be the heads of various institutions are all affiliated in some way to the RSS or are quite in synch with their philosophy (no matter that some of them seem to only propound the concepts of the greatness of India of 5000 years back – in terms of surgery, or building planes or spaceships, and so on). This has gotten weird. And the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the head of the FTII and Pahlaj Nihalani as the censor board chief has been totally weird, and the very fact that opposition is not even being looked at typifies a level of arrogance that literally seems heading for a fall. Much worse than the arrogance of the previous Congress Government, and it was bad enough.
The concepts that come through, whether these be the stringent beef ban, the attacks on writers (which of course happened in the Congress regime as well, but never seemingly tacitly supported by the ruling regimes), the statements by various BJP leaders propounding some kind of weird statement seem to make it scary. Equally scary is the fact that the Prime Minister does not comment on these, unless there is some kind of opposition that builds up and then he makes a statement after some days have passed – a kind of it will not happen again, until it happens again. Some of his MP’s, especially the saints, do not even bother to acknowledge what Narendra Modi says, as if they have got a special dispensation to spout whatever they can.
Now, one could argue that this is just a reverse of what the Congress was doing, so where is the difference. The difference is in terms of majority vs. minority. To whip up majority beliefs is much more scary than minority beliefs. Once the majority beliefs are provoked down a line of action, it is extremely difficult to stop them. One saw this in the Gujarat riots of 2002 where mobs from the majority community had been whipped up, and even police firings took days to stop these mobs. It is like uncorking a genie from the bottle. I am not arguing for one minute that one should tolerate minority appeasement, instead the law and ruling parties should remain neutral and do their jobs instead of playing politics either way. At another level, I am sure that there are a number of people in the country who object to somebody else defining for them what their beliefs are – what this means is that I do not give the VHP or some of these BJP leaders to speak on my behalf as a Hindu.
India is still an under-developed country. Real bad governance by the Congress all these years has resulted in low rates of development, loss of confidence and high levels of unemployment. For the country to develop rapidly, it needs a period of peace (the PM did ask for a period of 10 years of no communal strife), it needs outside investors to believe that this is a country of laws and security; certainly not a place where a mob could kill a man just because he was accused of eating beef – not very difficult from somebody in barbaric customs getting killed because of apparent blasphemy. As an example, when Modi was in the US soliciting high-tech investment from Silicon Valley, he was getting some press (domestic USA press, but not too much); however, the story of a man being killed for eating beef was much higher in terms of newsworthy items. India has to decide what image it wants to project for itself, and Modi has to decide what image his party and Government wants to project.

2 comments to The turmoil over a right-wing agenda in India today ?

  • C.P.Rajagopalan

    The current situation in the country is ominous. One by one, groups of writers, artists, film makers, scientists and now armed forces veterans have decided to return their national awards, mainly to protest against communal intolerance and loss of personal liberty. The last named, of course, is related to OROP. But it is a measure of the BJP’s arrogance that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley continues to ascribe such protests as being ‘manufactured’. As if, with 40 odd MPs in parliament, Congress wields influence over such disparate groups of the intellentsia.

    Narendra Modi seems to have missed the bus. A few months into his foray as so called ‘Pradhan Sevak’ of the country, he should have realised that it would be impossible for his government to deliver on his promises if he is saddled with the millstone of right wing elements on his shoulders. With the huge popularity he enjoyed at that time, he had the option of doing away with such elements. He should have confronted RSS and made it very clear to them that if he is to perform, he has to be given a free hand. If he could not have his way, he should have made a clean break with them. With the huge popularity he enjoyed, except for the radical right wingers, he would have carried everyone else with him. Without RSS, I don’ know if he would have had a majority, but that was a risk worth taking. Sadly, Modi seems to have missed the bus since, after 15 months of misrule, his popularity has taken a huge beating.

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