For six decades or more, I believed that I belonged to India. Now, for this past one decade, I have been having creeping thoughts about my national identity, my citizenship as an Indian and, above all, my nation’s own identity.
I have been noticing the emergence of a militant heat wave, which, backed by a particular ideological bend, is being forced upon the citizens, as it were, at knife point. This ideology is saturated with a narrow and sectarian notion of nationhood. It does not believe in the existence or the need for a secular democratic nation.
The proponents of this ideology unleash a propaganda that the boundaries of the nation have to be redrawn on religious parameters. And that these parameters have to be dictated by the religion of the majority community. To be more precise, by the rightwing fascist forces of the community!
Not that this ideology is anything new. It is almost a century old Hindu right wing ideology propounded by its ideologues such as K. B. Hedgewar, M. S. Golwalkar, V.D.Savarkar and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. But, ever since the Sang Parivar has been able to capture national power through its political outfit, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the militancy has gained an unprecedented momentum.
Those of us, who have seen India from its independent infancy and its steady growth to maturity as a secular democratic nation, do feel that the India we have grown with is being dismantled, demolished and destroyed systematically. This is unforgivable. How would you feel when you are told in your face that your identity as a citizen has to be marked by your avowing and belonging to the religion of the majority community? Or, when the secular India being converted into a communal Bharat?
With this communal thrust, the advocates of this ideology announced blatantly that they were going for a Congress- mukt Bharat. It meant that whatever the Congress Party had done ever since the Independence was anathema. For example, building the nation on the foundational principles laid down by the Constitution makers into a secular and non-communal democracy. Like nourishing the nation into a secular democratic country, building up temples of development, legislating laws against untouchability, honouring legal guarantees for Dalits, Tribals and minority religions and communities, building up base for a solid infrastructure for technology and economy, a principle-oriented relationship with international communities and world bodies. And more! In spite of these, the Nehruvian model was heavily criticized and declared as an ugly outfit for a resurgent India.
Some point out such frontal attack with reactionary feelings and adverse propaganda were a cover up for the Sang Parivar’s feeling dwarfed, as it were, in the face of these mammoth developments. Pushed to the corner for its non-performance and attempts to divide India on religious lines, its reactionary pronouncements and actions were like kicking against the wall.
This smoke screen onslaught was also because the Parivar could not digest the criticism that their adored icon Savarkar, while in Andaman cellular jail, went to the extent of begging for mercy from the colonial British regime.
But there is no confusion as to which new nation they are talking about? It is Hindustan they mean. The slogan is ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai.’ Anyone who does not shout this slogan full throated is bound to be pilloried, drawn and quartered as an anti-national alien. Every Indian is to believe and profess that India is Hindustan and that every Indian in this land is Hindu. So said RSS Guruji Mohan Bhagwat! He has declared it in the open. That meant consequences like street corner reality shows.
Emboldened by the chief’s clarion call, his followers are, with zealot urge, terrorising members of other religions by forcing them to shout aloud ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, etc. If you don’t fall in line, you are done for!
The dismantling the edifice of the secular democratic India takes many such convulsive forms. The Lynching foot soldiers go wild spree for torturing, killing or hanging people on suspicion that they were carrying out anti-Hindu/anti-national activities. Even taking a farm animal to your farm will invite the wrath of reconnoitering foot soldiers who can go to any extent in torture operations.
Going a step further from the Congress- mukt Bharat, another agenda-based attempt is to target the minority religious communities. It is going to be either a minority- mukt Bharat or a Bharat where minority religious groups, the Dalits and the Adivasis have to bear ostracism, persecution, denial of human and fundamental rights, destruction of worshipping places, etc. An innocent Dalit girl child plucking a flower from the compound of an upper caste in Odisha caused the upper castes to cry ‘pollution’ and to ostracize forty Dalit families. This India, Oh, my India! Legal guarantees are buried in books and justice is like catching the moon!
According to the Global Peace report, 2016, India ranks as 4th worst country in the world for religious hostilities among 198 countries. The Amnesty International report states that, in 2018, there were 218 hate crimes out of which 142 were against Dalits, 50 against Muslims and 8 each against Christians, Adivasis and Transgender community.
According to World Watch, among 50 countries, India is the 10th most dangerous country in the world to live in for Christians. Reports point out a steady increase in violence against Christians since 2014. In 2014 there were 147 such cases; in 2015 the number rose to 177; in 2016 there were 208 cases; in 2017 there were 240 and in 2018 the number showed 292 cases. All these happened during the regime of the benevolent BJP government.
It looks as if the minority communities are treated like chattel. Their members are told to get lost in Pakistan or ship out. Religious fanatics and even elected representatives have been casting aspersions on religious minorities with venomous and unparliamentary words with parliamentary impunity.
Even the rather recent incidence of targeting the Muslim community with the wild and malicious accusation that the Tablighi Jamaat had unleashed ‘Corona Jihad’ in India is something to take note of. The Bombay High Court’s order in this case is a strong condemnation of the state, the police, the print and electronic media, and the minority baiters whose aim was to spread malice against the minority community. It lambasted the state police for acting under ‘political compulsion.’ It went on to say, “The record of this matter and the submission made show that action in any form and for anything can be taken against Muslims...A political government tries to find the scapegoat when there is pandemic or calamity that these foreigners (Tablighis who had come from abroad) were responsible for spreading Covid 19 virus in India...Thus there is smell of malice to the action taken against these foreigners and the Muslims for their alleged activities.”
As against this, the government turned a blind eye against the crowds that gathered for the ‘Namaste Trump’ festival in Gujarat, and the provocateurs of violence through hate speeches.
The targeting of intellectuals and critics as anti-national is becoming another ugly trend to make India logic- mukt and reason- mukt. Those who air their opinion and critical views on the plight of the poor masses are silenced or condemned as terrorists, Maoists or desh-drohis. Those who critically analyse the government’s policies and point out loopholes or non-workability are considered enemies of the government and even of the nation.
National figures like Narendra Dabolkar, social activist and rationalist (20 August 2013), M. M. Kalburgi, Kannada university Vice-Chancellor and National Sahitya Akademy award Winner (30 Aug. 2015), Govind Pansare, leftist (16 Feb. 2016), and Gauri Lankesh, journalist (5 Sep. 2017) were eliminated in broad day light by gun-wielding assailants. Such hard-core eliminations were meant to broadcast the message that, in the right-wing dispensation, there is no room for dissenting opinion or critical observations or rational thinking. The propaganda of stuffing school and college textbooks with ancient religious stories and sidelining history or science-based matter was another attempt to murder reasoning, derecognize logical thinking, and to erase historical evidences and rational research.
The economy’s dark phase is another example of the changing face of India. Everyone is aware that the nation’s economy has been spiralling down the drain affecting the lives and profession of the common people. The have-nots are going up in numbers and the purchasing power of even the middle class has plummeted. The situation points to the ruling party’s pathetic failure in fostering a robust economy.
When there was slight increase in gas or petrol prices during the UPA rule, the BJP party stalwarts, ministers and their volunteers were out on the road banging empty cylinders and tin drums to the tune of their band group. But, when the prices of gas, oil, and even consumer goods skyrocketed during their NDA regime, the very same chorus groups are like those three monkeys who don’t hear, don’t see, and don’t talk.
The BJP government has let the Bank defaulters, with their loot of millions, billions and trillions, hasten to safe havens to cool their heels while India’s starving millions remain jobless, cashless and hopeless.
Even as the nation’s economy is in doldrums, due to mismanagement of national resources and infrastructure, our leaders have opened their hard and software market to sell India’s public enterprises and resource development mechanism for a farthing. They are in a rush to demolish any trace of a socialist economy by handing over India to private enterprises. Such ‘Big Bang Economic Reforms’ are flaunted as a ‘game changer’ for boosting the nation’s economy in the process of making a socialist economy- mukt Bharat.
The clarion call of Mohan Bhagwat and his group for the Adivasis to ‘get back to the Hindu fold’ ( Ghar Wapsi) is another attempt to make India Adivasi- mukt Bharat. The Adivasi leaders are astounded by the Sang Parivar’s propaganda that they are Hindus. They say that, once they are sucked into the Hindu fold, their identity as the indigenous will be erased and, with Hindu laws covering them, their land and resources will become saleable commodities. The hawk’s eyes are on the resource-rich mineral areas where Adivasis are dwelling. The agenda is, for the so-called development of India, even at the cost of displacement and evacuation; these areas have to be handed over to business tycoons and multinationals to build temples of capitalist enterprises.
But, today, people refuse to be fed with the fodder of false promises and devious arguments as they see through the game of a cunning politico-religious chess game. Only time will tell whether the suppressed murmurings and resistance of the masses against the fascist grave diggers of India will usher in a dawn of hope!
(Published on 07th September 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 37)