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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 39, September 20, 2014

Rule by the Majority

Monday 22 September 2014, by Mukul Dube

Where is India, now that the BJP has been in power in Delhi for a period? Bharat Bhushan, writing in the Business Standard, uses the excellent expression “ambient intolerance” to describe our present situation. The Hindutva agenda—together with all that underlies it—is rapidly permeating the very air we breathe. (http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/bharat-bhushan-ambient-intolerance-goes-up-114072901247_ 1.html)

He writes elsewhere that the PM, N.D. Modi, made a gift to the “Pashupatinath temple of 2500 kg sandalwood (worth Rs 4 crores at the Karnataka Government’s Cauvery Handicrafts Emporium rate of Rs 16000 a kg) and of 2400 kg of ghee” and asks: “Had the Indian Government wanted to gift sandalwood to Nepal, should it have been linked with Modi’s personal visit to the temple?” His conclusion is: “What we are witnessing is not just Hindu rituals in the public sphere but their use to create a predominantly Hindutva public sphere that marginalises others. Rituals are mere instruments [and powerful symbols—M.D.].” (http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/bharat-bhushan-pm-as-pilgrim-or-indianness-redefined-114081401189_1.html)

Ather Farouqui, writing not about the political leadership but about the popular “Kaun Banega Crorepati” television show, points to “the complexity and frequency of the questions derived only from the Hindu universe which are asked in such a matter-of-fact manner that it assumes that everyone would know.... perhaps it is assumed that everyone [who] lives in this country should know, via a process of osmosis, everything there is to know about ancient Indian myths and legends related to the Hindu pantheon.” (http://www.sacw.net/article9393.html)

What does the dominance of the majority entail? Harsh Mander writes in the Hindustan Times: “In the three months since Narendra Modi’s spectacular triumph, many corners of the country have begun to smoulder in slow fires of orchestrated hate and distrust against India’s Muslims.... The culpability for each of these clashes lies with the communal organisations bent on fomenting animosities. But it is shared equally by the shamefully weak-kneed (or actively prejudiced) responses of the State and district administrations in these states.... After characterising the millennium of Indian history when the majority of its rulers were Muslim as an era of slavery, the studied silence of the otherwise garrulous Prime Minister about these attacks is both deafening and ominous.” (http://www.hindustan times.com/comment/harshmander/this-silence-on-the-rising-communal-tempers-is-deafening/article1-1256008.aspx)

There is an explanation for this “studied silence”. An editorial in The Indian Express asks: “So who is in charge in the BJP? And why is no action being taken against those like Adityanath and Thakur who are openly stoking communal tensions on the ground, especially in poll-bound States, in flagrant defiance of the forward-looking and development-oriented image courted by the Modi-led BJP at the Centre? Or is the party playing true to its own worst stereotype—of always speaking in two voices, carefully choreographing the interplay between them and their alternation?” (http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/adityanaths-party/)

The answer to the last question is stated neatly by Prarthna Gahilote, who writes that the PM, N.D. Modi, is being projected as “a great leader”, specifically “one who allows the proxy raising of communal temperatures by his own party MP, Yogi Adityanath, while successfully projecting himself as ‘seemingly secular’ with his silences”. (http://www.outlookindia.com/article/I-Pradhan-Sevak/291887

The emperor, to whom no blame can adhere, has earlier too fiddled before a giant fire started by his legions.

The author is a writer, editor and photographer.