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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 24, June 7, 2014

Need for Vigilance

Monday 9 June 2014, by SC


With the elections to the 16th Lok Sabha having pronounced a decisive verdict, the Lower House of Parliament presents a scene completely different from the one witnessed in the previous Lok Sabha. As the first session of this Lok Sabha is formally inaugurated after a day’s adjournment on June 4 due to sitting member and Union Minister for Rural Develoment Gopinath Munde’s tragic demise in a road accident in the Capital, this becomes starkly visible. While the Congress has been literally decimated—its tally reduced from 200+ to a dismal and incredible 44 (its strength being far lass than the combined representation of regional parties like Tamil Nadu’s AIADMK, West Bengal’s Trinamul Congress and Odisha’s BJD)—the BJP is present everywhere now that it has become the first party in 25 years to enjoy absolute majority in the House with as many as 282 members. In this setting how the party (which was responsible for having stalled maximum number of sittings in the 15th Lok Sabha) would henceforth conduct inself in the Lower House only time will tell but in the last few days members of the government including the PM have not taken any false step except the MoS in the PMO, Dr Jitendra Singh, calling for abrogation of Article 370 in J&K and thus evoking strong reactions from leading political figures, among them the State CM, in the Valley.

The Badaun gang-rape incident, that culminated in the hanging of the two hapless victims, has generated widespread outrage among the public in general and this has been fuelled by the utter insensitivity of the UP Government and the leadership of the ruling Samajwadi Party. In the wake of BSP supremo Mayawati’s persistent demand for President’s Rule in the State it appears that the SP leaders too are acting in a manner that could invite such a measure from the side of the Centre. If this actually happens it would help these worthies to be bailed out of a difficult situation marked by general deterioration of law and order across the State. What is, however, unmistakable in the incident is that both caste and patriarchy are playing havoc and subjecting women, notably from the most depressed classes, to every form of violence. But in this context one notes a striking development: the backing that Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh are getting from the BJP Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Babulal Gaur, who has described rape as a social evil but in the same breath held women too to be responsible for such an eventuality. While exonerating Mulayam and Akhilesh he has gone to the extent of justifying some forms of rape thereby bringing out in sharp relief his innate patriarchal attitude. This only goes to show that both caste and patriarchy cut across political divisions.

Meanwhile the BJP/RSS are not sitting idle when it comes to such matters as the question of those they characterise as “illegal immigrants”. On June 4 the newly elected BJP MPs from Assam asked these “illegal immigrants” to leave the State within 15 days. One of the MPs, Kamakhya Prasad Tusa, has said if the immigrants did not leave the State voluntarily the party would start a door-to-door campaign to drive them out and the people at large would be exhorted “not to engage with the illegal immigrants in any way”, that is, urging them to resort to social boycott of the latter. For the BJP, all Bengali-speaking Muslims from Bangladesh are ‘illegal infiltrators’ regardless of their length of stay in this country. So the cut-off date set by the Indira-Mujib agreement—that is, March 25, 1971—so as to enable all those who came before that date to become Indian citizens, carries no meaning as far as the BJP activists of the Modi brand are concer-ned. Naturally the Bengali Muslims, mostly in Lower Assam, have become panicky in the light of such developments. This will affect Muslims elsewhere too and there is no gainsaying that Muslims in general are feeling insecure after the Modi-led BJP’s massive electoral success in terms of Lok Sabha seats (despite the limited number of votes it has been able to garner). The roots of insecurity also lie in the fact that the Muslim representation in this Parliament is the lowest ever (four per cent)—there is no Muslim among the 73 BJP members from UP; they have mostly won courtesy Narendra Modi.

One need not prejudge but given the past record of Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and their ideological accomplices, there is every reason to feel concerned over the situation especially on the communal front. After all, let us not be oblivious that the Modi-propelled BJP victory in UP and Bihar was the direct fallout of communal polarisation which is doubtless alien to the ethos of secular India. That is why maximum vigilance is the need of the hour. And it would be foolhardy to lower one’s guard at this crucial juncture in the nation’s history.

June 5 S.C.