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Mainstream, VOL LII No 27, June 28, 2014

Modi Back to his Agenda

Saturday 28 June 2014, by Kuldip Nayar

When Narendra Modi broke down in Parliament at his party MPs’ meeting while hailing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a pro-Hindu outfit, as his mother, I thought it was an emotional outburst. And I felt assured when he said after becoming India’s Prime Minister that he would take along with him all the 125 crore Indians on the path to development.

But as the party unfolds its programme, I find that it is only a cover-up of the divisive strategy that the RSS has formulated. Modi projects an image of an unbiased person while the BJP-cum-RSS takes steps to dilute pluralism. The RSS is already posting its trusted men as members of different commissions or at key positions. The youth from its cadres are being recruited for lower assignments. Since the bureaucracy tilts in the direction in which the wind blows, the BJP and RSS are finding no resistance in implementing their agenda.

Sharad Pawar, the former Union Agriculture Minister, who was also the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, is justified in his remark that after the BJP’s victory communalism is beginning to be visible all over. And this is only in the first fortnight of Modi’s government. It is yet to run the full course of a five-year term. What happened in Pune, the most liberal city in Maharashtra, indicates the forces which have run amuck. An extremist Hindu group killed Mohsin Sheikh, a 28-year-old IT manager, following the posting of derogatory photographs of Shivaji and Bal Thackerey, the founder of the extremist Shiv Sena. Mohsin was a suspect, with no evidence and proof.

True, the BJP condemned the murder. But this was an ideal opportunity for Prime Minister Modi to assure the Muslims, feeling insecure, that his government would see to it that the perpetrators were brought to book quickly. Even when specifically requested for a word of sympathy for the victim’s families, Modi kept quiet.

This attitude should not come as a surprise. As the Gujarat Chief Minister in 2002 when more than 2000 Muslims were killed with the complicity of the administration, including the police, he never expressed regret. In fact, Modi threw at the face of criticism a clean chit he got from a Magistrate’s Court at home. Till today he has not said sorry. His regret at the murder in Pune would have gone a long way to assuage the feelings of Muslims and strengthen the idea of India based on the concept of pluralism.

People like me want to assure the Muslim community, roughly 15 to 16 crores, that it has nothing to fear because India follows the Constitution which guarantees to every citizen equality before the law. There are courts, the media and liberal voices which are on the side of the Muslims if the community becomes a target. This was seen when the Babri Masjid was demolished and the Gujarat anti-Muslim riots took place.

Those who have asked for the abrogation of Article 370, which gives a special status to the State of Jammu and Kashmir, are the same elements that are anti-Muslim. Article 370 is as old as the Constitution, more than 65 years. But since Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim majority State, they have found the atmosphere during the Modi regime conducive to challenge the State’s status. They do not know the history; nor are they interested in finding out the facts.

When the British paramountcy lapsed in August 1947, the choice before roughly 560 princely states was either to integrate with India or go with the newly constituted Pakistan, taking into consideration the religion of the majority of subjects. The ruler could stay independent if he so desired.

Jammu and Kashmir’s ruler Maharaja Hari Singh belatedly joined the Indian Union even though the state’s majority population was Muslim. My reading is that Kashmir would have gone to Pakistan if it had been patient. But it first sent tribals and then the regular forces to annex the state. The Maharaja signed the instrument of accession in favour of India to get its forces to stop the murders. He transferred only three subjects—Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications—to India.

The State retained other subjects. Article 370 is the codification of that understanding. If the Union of India wants more subjects, it is for Jammu and Kashmir to decide because it joined the Union on that condition. The Union cannot have more subjects without the State’s consent. Therefore, the RSS—which has propelled the demand for the abolition of Article 370—is acting illegally.

In fact, things have now come to such a pass that the settlement has to have the consent of three parties—India, Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir. If a referendum were to be held today, the Valley of Kashmir would vote for an independent state. Jammu, with a majority of Hindus, would like to integrate with India, and Ladakh, with Buddhist majority, would want to have the status of a Union Territory directly under New Delhi. All these considerations have made the problem intrac-table.

In any case, the RSS should not play politics when it claims to be a cultural organisation. I am reminded of the ban imposed on it on January 30, 1948, after Nathu Ram Godse, an RSS man, assassinated Mahatma Gandhi. Then in 1949 when negotiations in response to the appeals from the RSS to lift the ban led to an agreement between the then Home Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and the RSS, the latter gave an undertaking that the “RSS will not engage in political activity” and that the “RSS will engage only in cultural activities”.

But then Patel, not satisfied with the RSS undertaking, demanded that it incorporate the promise not to engage in political activities in their (Sangh’s) constitution, to seal the agreement and to freeze the RSS permanently from political activities. That was in 1949 and subsequent to that the government lifted the ban on the organi-sation. However, in a shocking betrayal, the RSS led by its sarsanghchalak (chief), Mohan Bhag-wat, indulged in aggressive political activity from June 2013 in the effort to foist Modi, formerly an RSS pracharak, in the post of the Prime Minister of India. The result is before you.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is www.kuldipnayar.com