Prime Minister Modi is reported to have said the other day while addressing G20 leaders at Antalya (Turkey), “We need to involve religious leaders, thinkers and opinion makers for a social movement against extremism, particularly addressed to the youth” This was needed the most in countries where extremism was most prevalent, he said, and highlighted the urgency for promoting broader peace and stability in West Asia and Africa. He also said, “We don’t have a comprehensive global strategy to combat terrorism. And we tend to be selective in using the instruments that we have.”
Platitudinous and preachy, his words would not wash with most of his audience, given the recent adverse reportage in international media from back home. He seems to have overlooked the apparent radicalization of the Hindu fringe that has raised its ugly head in recent times True, most of the reportage was contrived by the so-called liberals and secular elements who do not let go of a single opportunity to go after Modi but the fact is that the Hindu extremists, of late, have become more active, intimidating and violent and Modi seems to have forgotten about them.
Besides, Modi’s words sound somewhat hypocritical as he did not use the means that he possessed to deal with the terrorism that recently emanated from the Hindu Right. He cannot wash his hands of saying that the incidents happened in states ruled by non-BJP parties. The instance of lynching at Dadri and the later statements by his Minister of Culture did not quite tally up what he said at Antalya. While initially the minister, Mahesh Sharma, glossed over it by saying it was “an accident” and, later, a case of “misunderstanding”, there was no perceptible move from the BJP to admonish him or the hoodlums who went in strength and lynched an elderly helpless person killing him on the spot on mere suspicion of having consumed beef. If this is not terrorism what is? True the state government ruled by a non-BJP party has treated the incident as a matter relating law and order but what of the ruling BJP (Bharatiya Janta Party)? It seemed to provide a protective umbrella to those under the leadership of whom the highly condemnable act was perpetrated. Wasn’t it a case of selective non-use of the instruments the Party possessed to discipline its foot soldiers?
As no serious note was taken of the “unfortunate incident” (this is how PM Modi described the Dadri incident) another incident soon followed at Delhi. Kerala House in Delhi had to be raided by the Police on a complaint of keeping beef on offer in the menu of its canteen. The Police found the complaint untrue and yet no action was taken against the Hindu activists by the BJP or its sister Hindu radical organizations for trying to arouse communal passions. In any case, consuming beef is no crime unless it is banned by an order of the state which, if imposed, would not be quite secular. A cow may be holy for Hindus, that does not mean people of other communities should treat it likewise. India is a country of multiple religions, multiple sects, multiple tribes and multiple communities of different castes and creeds. If Hindus do not eat beef, others would perfectly be within their rights to consume it unless it is banned by the state. The policing by the Hindu fringe elements in this matter, therefore, is reprehensible as they thus encroach on the freedom of others. For this kind of intimidatory behavior they should be hauled up under the country’s criminal laws.
This was not the end of it all. An unabashed threat was issued to the well-known play-write and theatre-person Girish Karnad reportedly for supporting the celebration of the birth anniversary by the Karnataka government of Tipu Sultan, the 18th Century feudal ruler of Mysore. Hue and cry was raised against the government’s decision by the Hindu fringe and for supporting the celebration it gave Karnad a death-threat. They said he would meet the same fate as one Kalburgy, a Hindu rationalist, who was gunned down, as is now evident, by the Hindu extremists.
Ever since BJP came to power the Hindu Right became more aggressive and its representatives in the BJP also started talking in a manner that was out-and-out communal. The utterance of a few members of Parliament from BJP caused deep embarrassment to it. This had been happening during all the past eighteen months but what happened in recent months was more aggressive and violent. No wonder, the so-called liberals made a song and dance about it. Writers and authors, scientists, artists, film-makers, et al launched a campaign of “award-wapsi” (return of state awards) as a measure of protest to the government. International media was flooded with features by the country’s liberal (sometimes biased) journalists communicating to the wide world that India had become a highly intolerant society under Modi, stifling freedom of thought , speech and action and that the country’s age old pluralistic tradition had been ruptured. One recalls a highly motivated talk by an award-returnee, Ashok Vajpayi in Canada in which he talked of the growing intolerance in India and ran down the Hindu Religion.
The sentiments of disaffection and alienation seemed to have risen in a crescendo all of a sudden because of several unseemly incidents. While elimination of free-thinkers was something certainly unheard of, religious violence was nothing new to the country. And, then consumption of beef became an issue and a debate raged about it. The print and electronic media also fanned the flames. It appeared that the country was in turmoil and had become unsafe for minorities and those who did not subscribe to Hindutva. The apologists for the government claimed the Opposition in the Parliament and its sympathizers had planned and fabricated the issues to embarrass the BJP and its Government at the Centre. That may have been true but only partially, as their own Hindu loudmouthed hotheads played no mean role in provoking the people to mount concerted protests.
Those of us who were apolitical and had nothing to do with any of the political parties watched in dismay their dreams of a developed and rising India crumbling. Manmohan Singh’s was a decade lost to corruption and paralysis. They had voted for Modi as they felt that neither Manmohan Singh nor Sonia or Rahul Gandhi could ever take the country forward. It was only Modi, they felt, who could tear away the political or bureaucratic cobwebs to march ahead. He had no axes to grind; not only he was incorruptible, he also had a vision for the country. His decisive manner of functioning held out promises of development and progress.
Thankfully for them, the “award-wapsis” and the debates on “religious intolerance” ceased suddenly soon after the Bihar polls where BJP got a sound thrashing. Seems like the liberals and the lefties were aiming at keeping BJP out of Bihar. And, numerous election rallies of Modi could not pull it out of the morass that the Hindu roughnecks had pushed it into.
Modi had asked people for two terms in office for achieving his vision for the country. For that to happen he will have to live up to his words uttered in Antalya and be more proactive and deal with the Hindu hotheads with an iron hand. Or else, he will be done in by them again in 2019.