Is ‘India’s soul lost to a dark politics’?

  • The past threatens the future


Modi’s win in India has prompted a unique celebration. A Dubai-based expat Muslim couple has named their newborn Narendra Modi. A fan of Modi’s policies and apparent progress in their country, the couple remains oblivious to the likelihood of another period of lynching of Muslims– that is physical bashing of the present generation and metaphorical of the past from at least the textbooks. For as the right-wing Hindus of India, high on their holy elixir courtesy gau mata, brace themselves for a devotional service to their motherland by getting rid of ‘impurities’ as their first priority, the moderate Indians gape in horror.

In its editorial, The Guardian opined that “Modi’s win will see India’s soul lost to a dark politics,” while an article in The New York Times called Modi “dangerously incompetent” and expressed concern over how voters had chosen to “prolong this nightmare”.

What was the nightmare? A general belief is that it is more of a privilege to be a cow in India than to be a woman or to practise a minority belief. People are murdered over the slaughter of a cow. And despite a high-impacting #MeToo movement in the country, India remains the most dangerous country in the world for women. Late last year, an Indian man was arrested for allegedly raping and robbing a British tourist in Goa, one of India’s top tourist destinations.

It was during this term, that the world gasped at the dethroning of the Taj Mahal from the status it has enjoyed for centuries. For the Taj was the crown of India, its iconic position a source of worldwide recognition. Its past belonging to a Muslim ruler had never mired its pompous presence in the skyline of Agra. To say that it is not a representation of India and did not deserve to be promoted as an Indian tourist site, was a bizarre assumption, nevertheless practised.

Questionable economic performance and worrying social indicators are pacified by chest-beating patriotism and religious fervour. Here is India where it wants itself to be: on the brink of terror and might

That the Ram Mandir will be built on the site of Babri Masjid with great fervour is no hidden truth. That the descendants of the very builder of the mosque, Babar, are despised and casually talked about as not having any importance in the heritage of India, is common knowledge.

Whether it rings bells of danger or sweet chimes of a holy act, the establishment of a national school board for Vedic Education that “would free the future generations from the present anglicised and anti-Hindu education system”, conveniently discards Urdu foremost, which is already struggling for survival among the remnants of a shrinking, if not dying, legacy.

Then there was the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019, which “seeks to give citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who came to India before Dec 31, 2014”. Critics called the proposal blatantly anti-Muslim and the state of Assam furiously discarded it, both seeing the decision as an attempt by Narendra Modi to boost his Hindu voter base ahead of the general election. It seems that the proposal, among many other steps, successfully wooed the Indian voter.

During a long period of the last five years, Pakistan has been openly treated as the most ‘unfavoured’ nation in the neighbourhood. Reverting to this status in terms of trade recently was a mere formality. In the past, whether war or in peace, never did India or Pakistan stop its artistes, medical practitioners and peace activists from crossing borders and exchanging ideas. But for now, all sort of cultural and health exchanges remain banned.

And trysts with war also happened. The Balakot episode– a façade as per the Pakistani media and a retaliatory move according to the Indians, struck the right chord with the frenzied, bloodthirsty nation. Modi got his votes, and that also in big numbers. The Congress, despite its legacy, despite the charm of Indira’s heirs in politics, despite its criticism of India’s rising unemployment and its moaning of the farmers’ suicides, failed to convince India that treading on the warpath is not the solution. Because this is the solution that India wants– its artistes speak of ‘teaching a lesson’ to Pakistan, and its cricketers donning army caps turn the cricket field into a battleground when facing Pakistan.

Indian author Vivan Marwaha wrote that “As millions of millennials face severe unemployment in smaller cities and the countryside– a result of massive labour supply but total lack of demand– they are turning towards Hindu nationalism and conservatism. The abundance of free time and lack of avenues to engage in productive activity leads them to blame ‘others’– usually Muslims or Dalits– for endangering their culture and opportunities.”

So questionable economic performance and worrying social indicators are pacified by chest-beating patriotism and religious fervour. Here is India where it wants itself to be: on the brink of terror and might. On the other side of the brink are India’s neighbours, grappling with their own share of terror and struggling to bring all their might to fight threats. Whether India’s soul loses to “dark politics” or not, the region gears up for another term of “dangerously incompetent” Narendra Modi.