NEIGHBOURS: SO, WHAT HAPPENS TO HINDUTVA NOW?

Published June 23, 2024
A sea of saffron-coloured turbans as at a Hindutva rally in India | Reuters/File photo
A sea of saffron-coloured turbans as at a Hindutva rally in India | Reuters/File photo

The failure of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to get past the 272 majority mark has brought back the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) into the forefront.

While Atal Bihari Vajpayee came to power and led the NDA government in 1998, there was a strong imprint of the BJP’s politics in the government.

Among other things which were part of the Hindutva agenda at that time was the appointment of the Venkatchaliah Commission to review the constitution, and the saffronisation of the textbooks and introduction of courses in astrology and Paurohitya [rituals] in the curriculum.

Twice, in 2014 and 2019, Modi came to power as the NDA, but as the BJP on its own had an overwhelming majority, the other components of the government were on a ‘silent mode’ and the BJP aggressively launched its Hindu nationalist agenda, which included the building of the Ram Temple and the reading down of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

In addition, people who were referred to as “fringe elements” killed Muslims and Dalits on the pretext of beef and gave the bogey of “love jihad” a free hand, enjoying impunity from the state.

It is not easy to undo deep polarisation introduced into society due to organised hatred

The other authoritarian streaks of the Modi government, including the subordination of constitutional institutions, gained prominence, along with the conversion of mainstream media into ‘Godi’ media.

All this woke the opposition to up and come together as INDIA [Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance]. Despite this formation coming into being, Modi and the BJP centred their election propaganda around an anti-Muslim rhetoric.

The campaign began with calling the Congress manifesto an imprint of the Muslim League. Most other slogans and promises of Congress were turned into something anti-Hindu and intended solely for Muslims. The prime minister called Muslims ghuspathiye [infiltrators] and a community that “had more children.” Modi’s propaganda reached a new low when he said Congress will do mujra (a dance which emerged during Mughal rule) for them.

The system has been so tuned that names of many Muslims did not find place in electoral rolls and, at election booths, many Muslims were turned away by the police. Muslims have been effectively turned into second-class citizens and have been made politically invisible. All this intensifies the prevalent hate against this hapless community.

As the BJP failed to reach the propagated “400 paar” for NDA and more than 370 for BJP, there was a big sigh of relief in the community. As the results came and Modi declared himself the next prime minister, he toned down his language to recall “sarva dharma sambhav [equal respect for all religions].” That this was peak hypocrisy in the light of what happened to minorities during the last 10 years does not bear mention.

What is in store for minorities in the times to come?

The impunity enjoyed by fringe elements may be slightly curtailed. This, though, is a big if, as they are well-rooted in the system. Whether allies like Nitish Kumar and Chandrababu Naidu will be able to raise their voice against this scattered anti-Muslim violence is yet to be seen. How effective they can be against the strong-arm tactics of the Modi party, only time will tell. The hate spread by the Hindutva movement is so widespread that it may not be easy to curtail it.

It is likely that the third pillar of Hindutva politics, the Uniform Civil Code, may be deferred. The Citizenship Amendment Act, which discriminates against Muslims, is like a hanging sword and time alone will tell us how much pressure the BJP will put to implement it.

Surely, after the remarkable Shaheen Bagh movement, the BJP will not insist on it, unless they feel that they can bulldoze their way despite Naidu and Nitish, who are more tactical in these matters. Note that Naidu has not moved from his ‘reservation for Muslims’ plank.

The other major issue of caste census, to which the BJP is opposed, may have to be rethought, as it was Nitish, as the chief minister of Bihar, who initiated this.

There is a strong national sentiment for it and there are few buyers for Modi’s propaganda that the INDIA alliance will remove the reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes and give them to Muslims.

What can we expect about Muslims’ social, political and economic conditions? The hate spread against this community by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and BJP combine has sunk deep into social thinking. Anti-Muslim thinking has become part of the perception of a large section of the society.

The consistent work of the RSS and BJP is made easier by changes in textbooks, the role of media and the word of mouth.

These myths and misconceptions are the solid pillars on which hate is constructed, and violence and subsequent polarisation brought in. While the role of RSS in the 2024 elections needs further analysis, it is their machinations which keep the hate against Muslims and Christians alive.

Interestingly, the number of RSS shakhas [Hindu theological schools] during Modi rule has more than doubled. In a state like Odisha, where the Kandhamal violence took place and Pastor Stains was burnt alive, the BJP is now in power again.

While in Kerala, BJP did win over a section of Christians for various reasons, nationally, Christians too are a target of Hindu nationalist politics, as seen by the rising sub-radar attacks on prayer meetings of Christians.

All said and done, the marginalisation of Muslims will continue. It is not easy to undo the deep polarisation introduced into society due to the work done by this organisation.

What RSS has been doing was well diagnosed by our first home minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, when he wrote after banning RSS in 1948, “All their speeches were full of communal poison, as a result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of [the] invaluable life of Gandhiji.”

This aspect of our political life was not curtailed and it grew into a multi-headed hydra, using every opportunity to intensify the religious division of the society. We cannot build the India of the dreams of our freedom fighters without undoing the massive hate which grips social understanding.

Ram Puniyani is president of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism in Mumbai, India

By arrangement with The Wire

Published in Dawn, EOS, June 23rd, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Afghan challenge
Updated 15 Jul, 2024

Afghan challenge

Foreign states must emphasise to the Afghan Taliban diplomatic recognition and trade relations all depend on greater counterterrorism efforts.
‘Complete’ justice
15 Jul, 2024

‘Complete’ justice

NOW that the matter of PTI’s reserved seats stands resolved, there are several equally pressing issues pertaining...
Drug fog
15 Jul, 2024

Drug fog

THE country has an old drug problem. While the menace has raged across divides of class and gender, successive ...
Miles to go
Updated 14 Jul, 2024

Miles to go

Some reforms agreed with the Fund are going to seriously impact economic growth and fresh investments, at least in the short term.
Iddat ruling
14 Jul, 2024

Iddat ruling

IT was a needless, despicable spectacle which only ended up uniting both conservatives and progressives in ...
Cricket shake-up
14 Jul, 2024

Cricket shake-up

SOMEONE had to take the blame and bear the brunt of the fallout from Pakistan’s disastrous showing at the T20 ...