After the massive victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Lok Sabha election in 2014, there was widespread euphoria among the Sangh Parivar members. The period just after the victory witnessed an unprecedented increase in hate speech against the minorities. There were provocative statements by the saffron brigade. Late Ashok Singhal, patron of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, declared that “by 2020 India will be a Hindu Rashtra and a Hindu world by 2030”. He termed the victory of the BJP led alliance in the 2014 election as a “Hindu Revolution” in the country. The first term of Narendra Modi government was marked by large scale increase in hate speech against minorities, attack on the minorities and lynching of innocent Muslims under the guise of cow protection by the cow vigilantes.
The BJP under the leadership of Modi initiated various steps during its first term in view of taking India towards a Hindu Rashtra. Rewriting the school text books and history, appointment of hard core RSS men as the heads of cultural and educational institutions, including Vice-Chancellors of universities, beef ban, restrictions on slaughter houses, appointment of RSS veterans as the governors of states, Doordarsan telecasting the speech of RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat on the Vijayadasami day and providing Z security to Baba Ram Dev and Mata Amritanandamayi are a few examples.
Vrinda Gopinath in a write up titled, “Three Years of Modi Government Turned India into a Hindu Rashtra” (2017), has briefly described six developments that point to the transformation of India into a Hindu Rashtra. They are Militarization of Hindus, Doctrine of tradition and conservatism, Super babies, Obsession with glorious past, Whirring nationalism and Mighty state. ‘Super baby’ refers to the claim of the "medical wing" of the RSS, Arogya Bharati, that they have the ancient secrets for conceiving a "susantan" or a super baby, through natural birthing, or garbh sanskar.
Modi and BJP fought 2019 election on the plank of National security and militant nationalism along with the tacit identification of the enemy of the nation with the Muslims.
After the landslide victory of BJP with 303 seats in the Lok Sabha in 2019, the party appeared to be sober. The Prime Minister appealed to the newly elected BJP lawmakers to win the confidence (Vishwas) of the minorities. He warned the lawmakers not to make unnecessary and provocative statements. He told the opposition parties not to be worried about their number in Lok Sabha, while appealing to them to take active participation in the discussions in the Parliament. PM Modi was underlining the important role of opposition has to play in a democracy. He also requested the cooperation of the opposition parties.
On the contrary, the scene of the oath taking ceremony in the Lok Sabha was marred by shouting of slogans like Bharat Mata ki Jai, Jai Sri Ram and Vande Mataram. After the oath taking by Unnao MP, Sakshi Maharaj, he shouted ‘mandir wahin banayenge’, a reference to the demand of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya. BJP’s Mathura MP, Hema Malini, concluded her oath with “ Radhe Radhe! Krishnam Vande, Jagat Guru". Even when the opposition parties stood up to take oath, especially the lawmakers of Trinamul Congress (TMC), the BJP MPs were shouting Jai Sri Ram slogan. Pragya Thakur, M P of Bhopal, attached the name of her spiritual guru to hers while taking oath as a member of the 17th Lok Sabha. In response to the shouting of Jai Sri Ram by the treasury benches while taking oath by Asaduddin Owaisi, he chanted “Jai Bheem, Takbeer Allahu Akbar and Jai Hind”. According to the media reports, when a DMK member hailed Periyar, Kalaingar, Gandhi and Ambedkar, the Chair said only the prescribed format should be taken on record. At the same time he had no objection when the BJP members were shouting Jai Sri Ram.
The behaviour of the BJP MPs in the parliament during the swearing-in ceremony amply demonstrates their majoritarian arrogance. The Prime Minister and the BJP President could have advised the MPs not to shout provocative slogans at the time of oath taking. While PM Modi entered first time the Parliament house, he had described it as the ‘temple of democracy’. The oath taking ceremony is a sacred act in the temple of democracy and the BJP failed to keep its decorum because of the arrogance of its lawmakers. This is, indeed, an indication of what is in store. Modi may continue to speak about winning the ‘vishwas’ of the minorities on the one hand and on the other hand, the Sangh Parivar members may continue to act according to the agenda decided by the RSS.
It is nearly impossible to believe that the BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah will not proceed with its agenda of making India into a Hindu Rashtra. Writer and social activist, Achin Vanayak in an article, “ As the Hindu Rashtra Project Rolls on, It’s Time to Consider What the End Goal Is” (June 12, 2019 in Wire) throws some light on the future goal of BJP-RSS. “The long-term aim is a Hindutva version of Israel”. According to him, the external features of democracy will be maintained in India, but the nature of the state may change in course of time. He is of the view that the BJP-RSS will continue the tactics it used in its first term to weaken secular democracy.
“In the coming period we can expect efforts to hollow out Indian democracy from within – through restrictions on the exercise of civil liberties of various kinds, through imposition of existing repressive laws, more manipulation and indirect influence of the public media, making favoured appointments and seeking to suborn investigating agencies and other sections of the civil services as well as the Election Commission and Supreme Court. This would be a continuation of what was being done in Modi’s first term and can be expected”.
Within a year, the BJP will have majority in the Rajya Sabha. Passing new laws and amending the constitution will not be difficult for BJP. As per the vision of Golwalkar in his book, “We or Our Nationhood Defined”, Muslims and Christians will be second class citizens in the Hindu Rashtra. Amendments could be made in the constitution to realize this vision. The Hindus, the majority community, could be given certain privileges which may not be available to the other religious communities. The BJP has already given in the Citizenship Amendment Bill provision for the ‘right of return’ for non-Muslim Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Afghans.
Once the amendments are made in the Constitution, the political parties other than the BJP which may come to power in the future will not dare to change the constitutional amendments because of the fear of losing the support of the majority community. As per the analysis of Achin Vinayak, “A Hindu Rashtra will be a fundamentally undemocratic state and society but with various democratic features certainly for the religious majority and even extending somewhat beyond. No matter which party in Israel comes to power through the electoral process – whether it is considered Left, Right or centrist – this will not change the fundamental character of Israel as a Jewish state. Hindutva too will strive to create a similar political reality no matter which other party ascends to New Delhi”.
Avijit Pathak , a Professor of Sociology at JNU, in his article, “Is It Still Possible To Strive For Yet Another India?” also says that the present political scenario in India is disturbing. “ Today we find ourselves in a strange situation. It is a world where there is neither Nehruvian/left-centric secularism, nor Gandhian spiritualised religious co-existence. Instead, we have a discourse of loud/militant/ Hindu nationalism – promoted by all sorts of ‘sadhus’, celebrity babas and above all, the entire gang of Hindu nationalists. And it appeals to many ‘Hindus’ …..” But he concludes his write up with an appeal for searching for alternatives. “Now, more than ever, India needs a liberating politico-economic and cultural philosophy that takes us to a more inclusive and cosmopolitan idea of man and society”.
The soul of India is pluralistic and we have to be optimistic that the people of India will safeguard its millennial heritage of ‘Unity in Diversity’, the spirit of Vasudaivakudumbakam. What is urgently required is to educate the youth of India about this heritage, the values enshrined in the constitution of India and the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi. Failure to educate the youth about the pluralist heritage of India has resulted in the brainwashing of the young people by the fundamentalist forces.
(Published on 24th June 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 26)