DOES MODI REALLY WISH TO TAME THE WILD HORSE OF RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM ?
ABDUL GAFFAR CHOUDHURY
Recently I was reading an Indian daily. In one issue they have published three or four news items which naturally raised a question in my mind- which way India is heading? One news item said that conversion of Muslims and Christians into Hindu religion in large number is going on. On 9th December more than 200 Muslims of Agra were forcefully converted to Hindu religion. The Muslim married girls had to wear sindoor in their foreheads, while the Muslim men had to abandon their topi.
Elsewhere Christian churches were attacked and many Christians were also converted. The second news reported that some people of the Indian ruling class have suggested to introduce an Indian new year’s day which is called Vikram Samvat. They claim that the coronation of Sri Ram Chandra was held on this day. It is a purely Hindu New Year’s Day. So instead of observing the English or secular New Year’s Day Vikram Samvat should replace it.
They also claimed this Hindu calendar started during the famous Hindu emperor Vikramaditya. The third news was that the Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi has been declared as the chancellor of Tagore’s Vishwabharti University. The name of the famous scientist and ex-president of India Abul Kalam was also proposed as Chancellor of this university. But the present president of India Pronob Mukherjee has approved Modi’s appointment. This news was not well-received by the intellectual circle of India who respect Tagore’s secularism and human ideals in education.
These three news are from one day’s Indian daily. Then news came in another daily that India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh has advised BSF Jawans that both the export and smuggling of Indian cows into Bangladesh should be permanently stopped. He said that after imposing strict regulations to stop this smuggling to Bangladesh the price of beef has increased 30%. If this is completely stopped the people of Bangladesh will have to stop eating beef. This news was published in no other daily but in Times of India on 2nd April, 2015. Now a prominent MP of BJP suggested that the voting rights of Indian Muslims should be curtailed because they have lack of allegiance to Mother India.
After Narendra Modi became the prime minister of India, his first step was to remove the fear from the other religious minority communities that he would follow a strong hindutva policy. He has shown respect for traditional Indian democracy and people believed that he would follow the policy of moderation like Vajpayee. His gesture towards Pakistan and Bangladesh has assured the people of subcontinent that Modi era will not destroy the secular and democratic base of India which was founded long ago by Nehru.
Now there is confusion among many Indian intellectuals and columnists who accuse Modi of double-standards. A famous columnist Kuldip Nayar recently wrote in his column that Modi is apparently pursuing a policy of secularism but has allowed RSS and Shiv Sena to establish hindutva in India. Nayer perhaps indicated that the strong wind of Hindutva under the banner of RSS and Shiv Sena are getting hidden blessings of the present BJP government.
If this accusation is true, then the question that naturally arises in the minds of many people like me is that in which direction India is moving now? Would the Indian democracy which had been strongly built and praised in the world sustain or would a medieval Hindu state gradually replace it? If that happens it will affect the whole subcontinent even the surrounding south-Asian countries and peace and democracy will be its first victims.
When Mrs. Margaret Thatcher came to power in Britain she had started the destruction of the foundation of a welfare state in the name of reforms. The British monopoly capitalism was boosted up and there were some improvements on the surface. But some sociologists expressed their fear that by transforming Britain from a welfare state to an old Victorian capitalist state with the alliance of America would disrupt the stability and peace of British social life and weaken its economic base. This prediction, if not fully but partially, has become true. Britain is still a superficially developed country under different styles of Thatcherism but its economy is facing one after another depression.
India’s political power lies in its democratic and secular foundation and not in any sort of militarism or religious fascism. Whatever the fault one can discover in Nehru’s political life now, it is true that he was the builder of modern India and his secular and democratic policies made India so powerful in world politics that this country influenced the world affairs without acquiring vast military might even atomic weapons. Nehru’s policy of mixed-economy did not allow the business lords of India to
dominate its political power for their own interests and the economic gap between the rich and poor was not so vulgar like present time.
Modi has come to power with vast public support and expectations which was almost unprecedented in the recent history of India. It was expected that he would restore the political power of political parties, which was lost after the death of Rajiv Gandhi and the big business of India would be dominating the country’s power structure. At the same time for the failure of the left and the central left political parties of India extreme Hindutva became the strongest political power in India. It was also expected that Modi will rein the wild horse of communalism with huge public support behind him.
But his performance as the Prime Minister of India has still not assured people that even though with his personal charisma and political power he can take India into a new era of development, whether he would be able to keep its democratic and secular structure unharmed. It also remains to be seen whether he can bring back the political power from the corporate houses and can tame the extreme communal groups within his party like Vajpayee. Perhaps this suspicion in people’s mind resulted in the defeat of BJP in the recent elections in Delhi and some other states of India also.
In Britain Thatcherism destroyed welfare state and created big corporate houses which is now dominating the British political life and economy. The rich are becoming richer and the poor poorer in Britain. Thatcherism could not replace welfare state with a Market capitalism which could ensure a healthy political and economic life in the country. In India if Modi destroys the very basis of Indian democracy it will not remain a strong and influential country in the world though they have obtained nuclear weapon and American friendship. The extreme communalism will disrupt the unity of the Indian nation and unity is the basic strength of Indian democracy.
If Modi succumbs to the pressure of Shiv Sena and RSS then there will be a fight between a dead and a living leader. Though Nehru is dead, perhaps he will fight Modi lying in his grave with his weapon of ideals. Our hopes and expectations are that Modi will take lessons from the history. The expectation he aroused not only in India but throughout the world, that he will be a leader of the middle ground not of any extremism and he will not end the Nehru era but reform and strengthen it will be fulfilled. India’s neighboring countries are looking towards him for his statesmanlike guidance. His success or failure will shape the future of not only India but the whole subcontinent.
APRIL 21, 2015