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Bulldozing Homes and Hopes

Archbp Thomas Menamparampil Archbp Thomas Menamparampil
28 Aug 2023

Adityanath Yogi’s bulldozer team razed three buildings of Gandhi Social Service organization in Varanasi, claiming that the land belonged to the railways. Even if the claim were true, there should have been more dignified ways of dealing with a reputed service organization. But sadly, we are back in the colonial era, at Nuh as at Varanasi.  Majoritarian leaders insensitively over-rule every legal norm and ethical prescription that stand on their way. 

Imposition of Hindi is a way of bulldozing the South. Referring to the haste with which questionable laws were passed in Parliament recently, all titled with Hindi names to provoke the Southern states, TN CM M.K. Stalin said: We need to prepare ourselves against the Hindi-belt strategies of “recolonization” in the name of decolonisation. 

Others have called bulldozing ‘medieval justice’. Historians remember Xerxes burning Athens in 480 BC, US forces wrecking structures in Vietnam and Soviets in Afghanistan, dictators in Zimbabwe and Ethiopia bulldozing slums and opponents’ properties. Which of these models is the present regime in India taking after?

“Bland Fanatics”

In 1957 Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr called his fellow westerners “bland fanatics” for their blind belief in the “moral superiority of Western civilization” (Mishra 1). What he really wanted to do was to invite reflection and self-criticism from European leadership about their post-colonial ‘superiority complex’. 

Pankaj Mishra in his book “Bland Fanatics” (Juggernaut, New Delhi, 2020) uses the same word to refer to the Indian elite for their pretension to “Indian exceptionalism” claiming moral prestige and geopolitical importance. ‘Bland Fanatics’! It reeks of “upper-caste sanctimony”, he says, and claims of class (caste) privilege. Hindutva-imposed colonialism has many faces. People in Kashmir and Northeast, for example, “live under de facto martial law” where security forces can do whatever they like, where impartial institutions have become remote (Mishra 3-4). Manipur forgotten.


Every age seems to have a craze of its own, which the bulk of population take for granted. Majoritarianism possibly is the craze of our present era, like imperialism was a few generations ago. Cecil Rhodes, writing in 1895, sought to convince his countrymen that there was no alternative to imperialism. Empire-building is the only solution for the social problem of the day. Great Britain needs to be saved, he argued; its burgeoning population of 40 million needs an outlet. British society has to be rescued from imminent disaster. Helping them to move into new lands and open out new markets is the only way to prevent internal conflict, a “bloody civil war”. “If you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists” (Mishra 53). 

A similar logic seems to be in the mind of the majority community in many countries today: the minority is a threat; if you want to save yourself, the minority must be brushed aside, silenced, or crushed. Though in India the majority community constitutes 79.8%, Majoritarians (including Modiji) are spreading alarm: ‘We have been humiliated for a 1000 years; we continue to be under threat’. 

Referring to the minorities, they warn, ‘They are growing, they are assertive, they are creative’. The death of the members of minority communities was no issue for the Majoritarians during Covid. Imperialist Churchill was casual about three millions dying during the Bengal famine of 1943, like Meitei-Kuki deaths for our Majoritarians today.  No harm with a few less of Indians, Churchill said, who “breed like rabbits” (Mishra 184).

‘Minorities Do not Exist’

Majoritarians oppose the very concept of ‘multiculturalism’. Samuel Huntington went to the extent of arguing that multiculturalism was anti-western (Mishra 136). Mark Lilla contends that excessive importance given to the theme of ‘multiculturalism’ in universities threw up Trump. Trump’s Majoritarianism diligently followed up Lilla’s critique of Minorityism: no “pampering of minorities”, no concessions (Mishra 139-140).  In the US, the dominant class wishes to marginalize the Blacks and immigrants. For them, real Americans are only white Americans.  SC judge Antonin Scalia pronounced, “In the eyes of the government, we are just one race here. It is American” (Mishra 149). 

Indian Majoritarians likewise condemn any eagerness to “appease minorities”: Muslims, Christians, Communists, intellectuals. Conceding their ‘rights’ is appeasement. Mohan Bhagwat or J.P. Nadda would say, in India we have only ‘Hindus’. All are herded into one.  Ambedkar foresaw what would happen after Independence. He knew that political equality would not necessarily ensure economic and social equality. Worst of his fears have come true (Mishra 14). Some are more ‘equal’ than others, as George Orwell would say.

Subordinate Class

The truth remains that the Hindutva elite is sorely in need of a subordinate class. Pankaj Mishra puts it this way, India’s new capitalism is looking for a “helot class” (Mishra 116). The Hindutva elite need people to sweep and clean, to sweat and be productive for others, to defend cows and get beaten, to bring down Babri Majid and get arrested, to fight on the Ladakh front and get shot. 

The Marxian formula can be made to work in their case, ‘making religion an opium of the people’. Recently Modi laid the foundation for a Ravidas temple in MP. Let the subordinate castes find joy in having a temple of their own, so that they do not come to pollute the places of worship of the higher castes. Dalits can be hailed as heroes of the Hindutva cause as Bajrang Dal warriors, but not as decision-makers.

It made headlines when 21 cows and buffaloes were saved at the Banglasesh border by the BSF. Have the Indian armed forces saved the lives of Kukis and Meiteis in Manipur during the last three months? Bajrang Dal claims to have given protection to 85,000 cows. What about the lives of hundreds of fellow citizens who were killed while taking their cows to the market? The livelihood of millions of Muslims and Dalits have been affected by the cow-mania of the Hindutva brigade. Millions more will remain undernourished for the foreseeable future, not having nutrition that a bit of beef used to ensure. The right to food should be considered the primary right of all. Under Majoritarian social order, as Minorities have no rights of their own, Subordinates have no claims of their own.

Many Ways to Marginalize

The New Education Policy is cleverly structured to ensure the creation of a “subordinate” class. In the same way, Modi’s “exclusive” insistence on mother tongue is meant to cripple the non-Hindi belt, that will not have the advantage of Hindi at the national level nor of English at wider levels. Let the South and East suffer for their stubborn stand against the imposition of Hindi. That seems to be the strategy. 

Meanwhile, we hear that Gujarat plans to introduce 100 English medium schools, under increased pressure. We hear at the same time that 1657 schools in the rural areas and tribal belt of Gujarat are with only ‘one teacher’. Thus, a ‘helot’ class will be provided by the non-Hindi regions and the tribals and Dalits of the Northern belt.  

Religion as the opium of the people can be transferred to school textbooks as well. Telegraph editorial of 19.8.2023 reads, “School textbooks are changed to suit Hindutva myths and biases, modern science is downgraded…”. Truth is no more the goal of education, but rooting bias, planting prejudice. Objective criticism has ceased to be an educational tool. At Ashoka University, Prof. Sabyasachi Das who was working on a theme “Democratic backsliding in the World’s Largest Democracy” was asked to resign. There has been a series of protests among his colleagues. 

A Surrender to Falsehood

Is there some reality called truth, ask Indians seeking genuineness?  As George Orwell says, “The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world”. Lies will pass into history. The BJP version of history will be loaded with them. Mughals never ruled India, the kingdom of Ram who reigned in Ayodhya nine lakh years ago included Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur! But genetic studies reveal that humanity moved out of Africa only about 80,000 year ago. Humans did not inhabit India before that period. 

In any case, Kerala textbooks will keep Akbar and others deleted by NCERT. Their syllabus will include the global hunger report that places India at the 107th position among 121. Truth needs to be told even when it happens to be humiliating. A truncated understanding of history and current realities cripples you for life.

No wonder Indian job applicants are finding themselves unequipped before real competition. Ashoka Mody quotes a 2019 report which says that 12.5 million applied for 35,000 jobs! Job seekers are in despair for lack of competence.  Meantime, truth-tellers are challenged and threatened. Recently over 15 writers in Karnataka received threat letters. They were among the 61 intellectuals who had signed a letter criticizing Hijab fuss and opposing the imposition of Bhagavad Gita in schools. 

Whether you wish or not, a new version of Indians is coming up, for whom mythology and mess are more important than verifiable truth and refined mutual relationships. The other day Bibek Debroy, the chairman of the PM’s economic advisory council, proposed a New Constitution that will recognize Hindurashtra. 

Interpret People’s Feelings

Ignoring of Manipur is like keeping your brother under your feet and engaging yourself with other things. Reporting that everything is going on well in Manipur is like a double slap. How can people be as heartless as that? No amount of explanation satisfies. Modiji gave 5 minutes 30 seconds to Manipur in his two-hour speech in the Parliament, which was mainly responding to the Manipur issue. 

Shiv Sena organ Saamna explains, since Manipur is not politically productive, the Centre is ignoring it. Will they bring out a product like “Manipur Files” with their own version of the story as they did with “Kashmir Files”?  Will they play with Manipur in 2024 as they did with Kashmir five years earlier, reducing it to the status of a Union Territory? All problems will have solutions in 2024, said Amit Shah. What he decides is the solution!

With the present regime, there is nothing like dialogue and revision of views, but total surrender and absolute submission! Are they interested in the three million people that compose the population of Manipur or in the trillion cubic feet in Churachandpur, Tamenglong and Jiribam districts that hold oil and in the deposit of platinum in Chandel district, tapping of which can be allotted to Adani?

Referring to Ayodhya, Mathura and other disputed mosque sites, Neeti Nair asks why these monuments are being dug up only to the Hindu era, and not to the Buddhist era at a deeper level. More meaningfully, go deeper in living out your religiosity. She laments that we are living in an “age of extreme hate”. Mahua Moitra felt embarrassed why the Prime Minister of a great country needed to debase himself before underclad religious seers during the inauguration of the Parliament building. Could he not bend to genuine religious values instead, to saving ethical principles, and to the religious minded people of Manipur? 

Neglecting discontent can have long term consequences. When we hear that three more Hindu temples have been vandalized in Canada by Khalistanis, we can look back and remember how this sort of resentment began. Anger gives out an initial spark. It could have been put out in the early days. It can be put out today in Punjab, Canada, and Australia… in Manipur as well. The bulldozer is not the answer.

Anxiety is not merely about insurgency or public lynching (Mishra 157). Today people worry most about the economy. ‘Political unrest’ can have detrimental economic consequences. Global agencies have begun to take note of India’s disturbed social conditions, consequent rising prices, fiscal deficit, and weakening domestic consumption. Critics see a return of licenseraj and growing protectionism. No doubt, Adanis and Ambanis claim protection. Trump warns, if he returns to power, he will go tough with India. International investors are beginning to rethink their investment plans.

We cannot afford to neglect such symptoms when even the mighty Chinese worry when their economy is sliding. In recent months Chinese exports have fallen by 14.5%, imports by 12.4%, economic growth has been reduced to 0.8%. They are experiencing weak domestic demand. Rebuilding confidence among communities is the first step towards successful economy. That is what Xi is trying to do.

Ultimately what matters is the wellbeing of the people of China or India, of Punjab or Manipur. Gandhiji used to say, if a single village perishes, so does the nation. When hundreds of villages in Manipur suffered, the nation agonised. The guardians of the nation should not allow people’s homes and people’s hopes to be bulldozed or dashed to pieces…in Nuh, Varanasi or Manipur. We have a glorious future to share!

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