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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2345

Moving Towards Extreme Right Is Wrong

By Tushar Charan - Syndicate Features

While we wait for Narendra Modi to usher India into the repeatedly assured era of economic Nirvana what we have witnessed since his inauguration in May last year is that the country is hurtling towards extreme ‘right’ and the society clearly polarised along communal lines.

Politically, the all-important state of UP, run by an incompetent government, seems to have been converted into a laboratory to test the ‘Hindutva’ theories. It began with outcries against ‘Love Jihad’ and the riots in Muzaffarnagar and nearby areas in western UP. It has since been accentuated with the holy cow becoming the main rallying point for damning the ‘beef-eating’ minorities.

The ugliest part of this campaign was witnessed in a village called Basada in Dadri (UP), some 50 km from the residence of the prime minister in Delhi when a mob of cow worshippers lynched 55-year-old Muslim, Akhlaq, and grievously wounded one of his sons. Akhlaq’s family had allegedly stored and consumed beef, though there was no proof of that. It will appear that even a vague suspicion of someone having consumed beef becomes a legitimate excuse for brutally killing of human beings.

As it happens so often, a serious incident instantly becomes an apt subject for playing politics. The inhuman act in Basada saw politicians of all hues rushing to hog the limelight by visiting the bereaved family and commiserating with it. Every party accused every other party of ‘politicising’ the incident.

The civil society too failed. The Basada murder did not see candles lit at India Gate or Jantar Mantar nor huge demonstrations that have been witnessed on many occasions in the past. Well, that kind of protest has been reduced to tokenism. But what was saddening was that nothing was done to remove the fear and distrust among the minority families in Basada.

The Indian Air Force offered to provide protection and shelter to Akhlaq’s family because his eldest son is a Corporal in the IAF. That was probably a welcome gesture but really the duty to look after the family of Akhlaq and other minority families was primarily that of the district and the state administration. That duty does not end with the announcement of cash compensation.

A statement attributed to the home minister, Rajnath Singh, that ‘any threat to the secular fabric of the nation won’t be tolerated’ and those responsible for lynching Akhlaq will not be spared has to be read with what the finance minister, Arun Jaitley, said in far-away New York almost at the same time. He said that communal incidents dent India’s image. These two statements were, at best, belated and half-hearted attempts to stop India straying onto the extreme ‘right’ path and resemble a ‘Hindu Taliban’ state.

These two BJP stalwarts should know that nothing is going to change unless the government takes the threat of virulent communalism more seriously. Their words do not carry any weight when their own leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has obstinately decided to keep mum.

The compulsions behind the statements of Singh and Jaitely are not difficult to fathom. Rajnath Singh was watching his party’s interest in his home state, UP, and Arun Jaitley perhaps remembered the embarrassing ‘gentle admonition’ on the threat to India’s pluralism, delivered by the US president, Barrack Obama, when he was in Delhi on Modi’s invitation last January.

That a BJP-led government headed by Narendra Modi, hailed as ‘Hindu Hridya Samrat” (king of Hindu’s heart), would push for a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ was not in doubt to the millions who voted for him in the last Lok Sabha polls. But we also learnt through high octane media publicity that Modi’s priority would be ‘development’.

The extent of ‘development’ achieved in the country under his watch depends on how one interprets the statistics, scarcely comprehended by the hoi-polloi, put out by the government. All that can be said is that the ground realities do not suggest that there has been any spectacular ‘development’ since May 2014 except the unprecedented rise in the price of many food items, particularly dal and onions.

More visible have been the many instances of communal disharmony created by irresponsible and provocative statements by ministers, MPs, MLAs, sadhus and sadhvis of the ruling party and their associates. Sometimes we were told that the statements were being made by the ‘fringe’ elements. But ministers and elected leaders cannot be called ‘fringe elements’. There has been no stopping the foul-mouthed ‘fringe elements’ despite declaration that they have been asked to observe ‘restrain’.

Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that instances of physical assault on members of the minority communities and their properties have been occurring frequently. The brutal murder of Akhlaq in Basada on September 28 could not have come as a total surprise.

When the objectionable statements started to come out quite regularly from various BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders the least that was expected was that the Prime Minister, otherwise always busy tweeting on every subject, would break his ‘silence’. Since assuming the high office, he did open his mouth once to say something to the effect that irresponsible statements by public figures harmed the country. He did not specifically mention the names of the ‘guilty’ men and women, thereby creating the impression that he did not take a serious view of their indiscretions.

The BJP or the Parivar leadership confirmed this impression by not pulling up their members, at least not publicly which would have suggested that what they said or did was wrong and unacceptable in a pluralistic society like India’s. So much so, Rajnath Singh publicly ticking off two junior ministers for their Foot in The Mouth disease is no small consolation.

- Asian Tribune -

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