In Chase Of Conserving National Distinctiveness

by July 25, 2018 0 comments

In Chase Of Conserving National DistinctivenessThe most important question which was raised 10 months before the 2019 General Election is that: “Is the BJP’s main voter eager to restate his/her command for the party?

Could India be a ‘Hindu Pakistan’ or a ‘Hindu First’ nation after 2019? This is a futuristic debate politically well timed to trigger fear mongering ahead of the 2019 General Election. I have often written that the forthcoming election will be motivated by fear more than hope, as this prelude suggests, building up to a crescendo of what is expected to be one of the most communally divisive and personally vitriolic campaigns in post-Independent India. Let’s put both these labels of a ‘Hindu Pakistan’ or a ‘Hindu First’ nation down to just a play with words. Words, which politicians play with as dog-whistles for their constituents, and intellectuals use, but the man on the street is oblivious of. Because overdone clichés like ‘secularism’, ‘plurality’ and ‘inclusion’ are confined to television debates, full of sound and fury, signifying little.

So here we go again with Congress’s Shashi Tharoor igniting the flames of communal apartheid in what could someday turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy: “If the BJP is voted back to office, they would change the Constitution to make India a Hindu Pakistan.” And his conjecture is possibly right that only a lack of two-thirds majority in Rajya Sabha prevented the party from doing so. Thereafter ensued a riveting Twitter-riot in the virtual world, with Internet Hindu’s fantasising a Hindu Rashtra with a ‘Why not?’ attitude. Spearheaded by die-hards, the hashtag trended #IamHindu, with sentiments like “I am Hindu, my temples destroyed, history distorted, my Gods defamed, millions brutally killed. Don’t insult my faith. Don’t defame my Gods.”

What is missing in the Congress and the thus far ‘disunited Opposition front’ is their ability to craft  precision strikes at their bête noire, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, thereby skirting real issues of voter concern and governance deficits of the BJP. To challenge Modi through manufactured controversies like birthing a future Hindu Pakistan, is handing over the political narrative on a platter to the RSS and the BJP as messiahs of the majority community. That only helps keep the communal cauldron simmering, allowing religious polarisation to take precedence over economic well-being. In a flourishing economy and a fabled Land of Plenty, when people flourish, they prioritise abundance over conjured schisms.

The bottom line is that while Muslims constitute 14.2 percent of the population, it is the Hindus who comprise 78.8 percent of the electorate, and who form the core vote-bank of the ruling BJP. Clearly, Hindus will be Hindus at heart. And equally, Muslims will remain Muslims at heart, despite the BJP’s fighting for gender-justice for Muslim women, supporting reservations or implementing progressive social reform bills. Because, their historic bias against kafirs trumps any measures taken to liberate the community from regressive personal laws. This tweet encapsulates my assumption: “Dear PM Modi, please don’t try to win the support of #Muslim women. We don’t need you or your Sangh to rescue us.”

For the beleaguered community to depend only on the Congress that has flip-flopped back to soft Hindutva to win back Hindu votes they lost since 1986 is a travesty of faith, and leaves them politically orphaned. Even the Sachar Committee, constituted by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh way back in 2005, provided evidence of how Muslims fared poorly on all human development indicators, and continued to be excluded from mainstream development indicators. The community has long resented being treated as a pliant herd which traditionally voted as a monolith, and subsequently looked for an alternative in regional parties instead of remaining loyal only to the Congress.

Coming to the Hindu mindset, unambiguously even the most liberal and secular amongst the majority community desires a restoration of cultural supremacy within his own country. There may be little numerical evidence to back this feeling, but there seems to be a greater acceptability than ever to the idea of “What is so wrong with a Hindu Rashtra?” as the silence of the passive Hindu grows into a collective clamour sensed in tweets, Facebook posts, and WhatsApp forwards.

While rebuilding the Ram mandir is a symbolic sentiment of setting right historic injustices, revision of the constitution is a deep felt desire of Hindus who regretted the decision of our founding fathers in subjugating the rights of the majority community, or placing the rights of the minority on par with Hindus. While this discourse is unending, and not a new one, it has gained traction for three reasons: Hindus were emboldened after Modi’s ascension; growing Islamophobia is a global phenomenon; and the increasing insurgency in Muslim-majority Kashmir. Echoes of majoritarian assertion are reflected across the globe, with Israel’s Parliament just this week adopting a law defining the country as the nation state of Jewish people, provoking fears of discrimination against Arab citizens.

Hindus resentful of being relegated to second class citizens over 60 years of Congress rule feel their time has finally come, and that the will of the majority must eventually prevail, even if it means resorting to Constitutional amendments as mooted by RSS ideologues.

If the BJP-RSS idea of a Hindu Rashtra is to replicate a “mirror image of Pakistan where minorities are subordinated to the dominant religion”, I stick my neck on the block that even the most fierce antagonist amongst Hindus opposed to Modi will remain loyal to the idea of a ‘Hindus First’ nation. Because countries that are not theocratic states reject the idea of invaders, refugees or Islamic minorities domiciled in their host countries dictating government policies within their homeland in preference to a ‘natives first’ policy.

To elucidate this a bit further, when Jinnah succeeded in partitioning India on the premise that Indian Muslims cannot live in subjugation to the majority Hindu community, it was logical to assume an en mass migration of the minority community to the newly-formed nation of Pakistan. “The mass exchange of population was duly endorsed by independence activists of that time, while those 35 million Muslims voluntarily choosing to reside in India would do so with visas.”

It was Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi who, thereafter, pursued the policy of Muslim appeasement by offering minorities reservations and legislating a misogynist law that went against the SC verdict in the Shah Bano case in 1986. That was one of the biggest historic blunders of Congress in catering to Islamic orthodoxy and thereby being labelled as a party which was pro- Muslim men only. Today, the reality is that even moderate Hindus fear the Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Trinamool Congress precisely because they prioritise ‘minorities first’ because they are the biggest beneficiaries of their votes.

RSS ideologues believe, “We the people of India can change what we gave ourselves in 1950,” as so far there have been 101 amendments to the Constitution, some of them under very questionable circumstances, as in the case of the 42nd amendment Act of 1976, called a “mini-Constitution” or the “Constitution of Indira”. So, what was man-made, man can certainly change. The Constitution was amended on grounds that it was responsive to the vox populi, the aspirations of the people, and reflected the realities of the contemporary times. “And those amendments could not be questioned in any court, and further, that there could be no limitation on Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution ‘by way of addition, variation, or repeal’.”

A ‘Hindu First’ nation is an idea long overdue, and whose time has emotionally arrived. This is no longer a ‘fringe fantasy’, but has turned a mainstream aspiration today. Sense the frenzied call to unify in the messaging of rabid organisations like the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti: “Oh Devout Hindus! Due to a ‘secular’ democracy, the state of the society, nation and Dharma is on the decline. A Hindu Nation is the need of the hour as the only solution to the problems of Hindus.”

However, politically the time for a ‘Hindu First’ nation may just have lapsed and eluded India’s destiny, as 2019 is expected to throw up a fractured verdict, despite BJP returning as the single largest party. Modi achieved a historic mandate in 2014 because he promised to deliver economic prosperity.

The vital question 10 months before the next General Election is this: Is the BJP’s core voter willing to reaffirm his mandate for the BJP in the hope that Modi 2.0 will succeed in bringing India closer to becoming a Hindu nation? A mature democracy must judge for itself and give more weightage to a party or a political formation which is better placed to deliver long-term economic progress and corruption-free governance in preference to parochial issues.

(The writer is an author and columnist)

Writer: Bindu Dalmia

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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