PRIME Minister Narendra Modi has all the sanyasi’s conviction of moral superiority. It gives him the willpower to initiate a crusade, except that it is not the conventional one but Modi’s own version — Indian Hindus pitted against Pakistani Muslims. Even now, as India moves into the third stage of its electoral process, his tirades against Pakistan grow more raucous. He canvasses not as a second-term candidate offering improved performance but as a political gambler desperate to recoup his losses to Pakistan.
Prime Minister Modi has Indians believing that India got the better of Pakistan at Balakot, that Prime Minister Imran Khan capitulated on his command and released the IAF pilotcaptured by Pakistan, that “circumstantial unverifiable evidence seems to indicate” that India downed a Pakistani F16 aircraft. His latest bellicosity is that Mother India possesses the “mother of all nuclear bombs”, capable of obliterating neighbouring Pakistan without affecting India.
One day, rational Indians will regret remaining silent today.
He chose to make this apocalyptic disclosure on Mahavir Jayanti — the birth anniversary of the 24th Jaina tirthankara Mahavir, whose life’s teachings were predicated on pacifism and non-violence. Such inconsistencies are lost on his adoring public. They come, listen to his vitriolic rhetoric, and leave with hate pumping through their veins. He has convinced Indians that only he (and not the soft-centred Congress) can overcome the Mahisha-asura of terrorism. He appeals to a seething mass of Indians. That is obvious from the turnout at his rallies. Whether they will express that admiration through the ballot box, only the results on May 23 will tell. India’s friends pray for the best; its neighbours fear the worst.
Mr Modi’s tirades are not his personal opinion, no more than Enoch Powell’s race-hate speech was 50 years ago. In 1968, Powell railed against unbridled immigration. He spoke of being filled with foreboding: “Like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood’.” Ironically, the river Thames did not foam with blood. The results of the Brexit referendum of 2016 reveal that post-1960 migrants to the UK voted to seal the very doors that had given them admittance.
Mr Modi’s India contains 200 million Muslims. He and his Lakshmana brother-in-arms Amit Shah view them as immigrants, with no right of residence in Bharat Mata. They are not entitled to assimilation. They deserve expulsion. Addressing rallies recently in Rajasthan and Delhi, BJP president Amit Shah ranted: “Are you bothered because of illegal immigrants in Delhi or not? Should they be thrown out or not?” And then, added ghee to the funeral pyre of India’s secularism: “One hundred crore infiltrators have entered our country and are eating the country like termites. Should we throw them out or not?”
One day, rational Indians will regret remaining silent today as humane Germans did during the pogroms against the Jews in Nazi Germany. They too hoped to wake up from that disturbingly bad dream to a ‘glad morning’. In the end, Hitler’s Germany was defeated by the Allies and destroyed by its own lies.
In war, statistics lie, body counts do not. The morning after the Balakot attack, India’s defence minister Nirmala Sitharam crowed that “over 300 terrorists” were eliminated. India Today followed with an IAF supplied layout of a Jaish ‘terror camp’ at Balakot. It showed “a Hijama Therapy centre, a Dispensary, a Tailoring shop and a swimming pool”, all for nonexistent occupants.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, a few days ago, in an unprecedented contradiction of her cabinet colleague, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj admitted that “no Pakistani soldier or citizen died in the air strike carried out by the Indian Air Force across the border in Balakot”.
Why should Smt. Swaraj have made this public confession? Is it a well-timed jab at Prime Ministry Modi, as pointed as her stab at prime minister A.B. Vajpayee in July 2001, when she and L.K. Advani fatally undermined the Musharraf/Vajpayee summit at Agra? Only she knows. Ambassadors are expected to lie for the good of their country. This must be the first occasion when an Indian external affairs minister has told the truth to the detriment of her country.
Neither Modi nor Amit Shah has reacted publicly, yet. Until May 23, they refuse to be distracted by telltale revelations such as hers. Their concern is not 300 ‘corpses’ at Balakot. It is the 200m Muslim bodies that they would like to see expelled from India.
Smt. Swaraj was not born when in 1947 millions of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs transmigrated. She was a teenager when, in 1971, up to 8m Hindu and Muslim refugees fled to India from East Pakistan and precipitated a war. As a mature minister, is she distancing herself from the BJP’s pharaonic determination to order an exodus of Indian Muslims? It could begin with the states bordering Pakistan.
The writer is an author.
Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2019