A hundred days of schizophrenia

Mr Modi has done absolutely nothing to restrain his part ymen from promoting what is called ‘polarisation along religious lines’

Several good things have happened since the formation of the Narendra Modi government that deserve a welcome. In the field of foreign policy and diplomacy, the Prime Minister, who made a big impact during his visits to Bhutan, Nepal and the Brics Summit in Brazil, has exceeded that performance in Japan. This hasn’t pleased Beijing, of course, but that can perhaps be taken care of when, shortly after returning home, Mr Modi will be welcoming China’s President Xi Jinping. Thereafter, he will be in Washington for talks with President Barack Obama who has made it known that he wants to reinvigorate India-US relations that have flagged in recent years. Pakistan will continue to be a problem, however, not so much because of the cancellation of the two foreign secretaries’ meeting as due to the enormous internal upheaval in the western neighbour.

Even in the domestic arena there is room for some cheer though prices continue to be high. Just before leaving for Kyoto — which is now a sister city of Varanasi and is expected to be converted into a “smart city” with Japanese help in five years — Mr Modi launched the plan to enable the poor to have bank accounts together with an insurance of Rs 1 lakh. The rate of growth of the GDP has risen to 5.7 per cent compared with 4.6 per cent in the last days of the previous government.

This said, one must hasten to express great disappointment with the all-too-powerful Mr Modi for having done absolutely nothing to restrain many of his partymen and ardent supporters from making endless objectionable statements to promote what is euphemistically called “polarisation along religious lines” but is actually nothing short of spewing communal venom. Sadly, this dangerous drive had begun during the election campaign itself. For instance, Giriraj Singh, a fairly senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader in Bihar, brazenly declared that those voting against Mr Modi would have “no place in India, and must go to Pakistan”. Rajnath Singh, then BJP president and now Union home minister, merely “dissociated his party” with the shocking statement. Mr Modi said nothing, which continues to be his style and strategy.

Nor did he comment on what happened on the other side of the fence. Azam Khan, a senior minister in the Samajwadi Party’s government in the state of Uttar Pradesh, chose to insult and communalise the Indian Army by uttering the lie that “no Hindu had won back the Kargil hills from Pakistan and this was done only by those shouting Nara-e-takbeer (Muslims)”. The supreme leader of the SP is Mulayam Singh Yadav, a former defence minister. Prominent military leaders requested him to set the record straight and chastise the errant Mr Khan. All this fell on deaf years. Evidently, top leaders of all political parties are alike.

After Mr Modi’s, rather than the BJP’s, famous electoral victory, provocative and poisonous statements should have ended, but unfortunately, they haven’t. On the contrary, the Hindutva hotheads have gone berserk. The story of what they have been saying and doing is as long as it is painful. The BJP and its allies cannot take the position that “irresponsible” statements are being made only by foot soldiers and fringe elements. For, it was the minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office who raised, on day one of the Modi government, the issue of abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution that gives Jammu and Kashmir a special status in the Indian Union.

This evoked such an angry reaction within the sensitive state that its Chief Minister, Mr Omar Ab-dullah, and his father and former Union minister, Mr Farooq Abdu-llah, threatened secession in case Article 370 was repealed. Since then the situation has worsened because the Chief Minister is opposing the cancellation of talks with Pakistan to such an extent as to get a resolution passed by the state Assembly that talks with Pakistan should be resumed. This did not prevent another Union minister to announce that the equally controversial proposal to have a uniform civil code should also be taken up soon.

All this paled when the chief of the Rashtriya Swaysevak Sangh, of which the BJP is the political face, Mohan Bhagwat, proclaimed magisterially that whoever was a citizen of Hindustan was a “Hindu”, causing much resentment among not only the various minorities but also those within the majority community who stick to India’s secular and liberal values. Since then things have deteriorated alarmingly.

Presumably because a dozen crucial byelections are to be held in Uttar Pradesh very soon, BJP leaders, including Lakshmikant Bajpai, president of the BJP’s Uttar Pradesh unit, saffron-clad Yogi Adityanath, a senior MP who has been assigned a major role in the byelections, and Kalraj Mishra, a Union minister, are doing all they can to foster communal strife. Mr Bajpai rhetorically asked, for instance: “Have they (Muslims) got the certificate to rape girls because they belong to a particular religion?” He and Mr Adityanath also invoked “love jihad”, an oxymoron which is supposed to mean that Muslim men sinisterly lure Hindu girls into marriage to convert them to Islam. The yogi went so far as to declare that for every Hindu woman so converted, “we will (mete out the same treatment) to 100 Muslim girls”. He added that in areas where the Muslims were 35 per cent of the population or more, “there is no place for non-Muslims”. Mr Bajpai asserted that “99.99 per cent of all rapes were committed by Muslims”.

Shouldn’t Mr Modi worry that if this kind of demagoguery is permitted to continue, communal strife and violence are bound to follow? What happens then to his demand for a “10-year moratorium on communal and caste violence”, leave alone his lofty objectives of development and good governance? His enduring silence cannot but ensure escalation of wrongdoing.

( Source : dc )
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