Mainstream, VOL LII, No 43, October 18, 2014
Notes on the Leader
Monday 20 October 2014, by
Since the results of the general election were declared, I have been in a state of unbelief. The country now has at its head a man who has widely been called a mass murderer, who likened a massacre of Muslim citizens to the accidental death of a “kutte ka bachcha”, who delights in preening for the cameras holding swords and wearing diverse kinds of head-gear, and whose stated qualification for the top job is a thorax whose circumference is 142 centimetres.
Modi may well be described as a manly, muscular manifestation of Hindutva. He is at once modern and mediaeval, moving among Tatas and Ambanis and space scientists and posing before a fawning populace in a regal crown and robes. Regal also are his declarations. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation through radio Friday morning, said the nation belongs to everyone and 125 crore Indians are blessed with immense skill and strength.” (IndiaTomorrow.net, October 3, 2014)
This is the classic line of the oppressor. Praise to the skies those whom you oppress and exploit, imply that you have no privileges that they too do not have — and then proceed to bleed them dry, to snatch away the natural resources which belong to them, to turn their property into your own monstrously costly gift to a temple for the benefit of your own immortal soul, to remain loftily silent while your underlings threaten and attack them.
The manliness and muscularity of Hindutva have taken a form that can only be called bestial. “The systematic use of gang-rape as a weapon occurred in the Surat riots after the Babri Masjid demolition, and an ugly innovation was the videotaping of the gang-rapes.... According to Praful Bidwai, Modi was the mastermind of the unspeakable atrocities against women in the 1992 Surat riots.” (https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/india-united-against-fascism/india-bjp-rape-and-status-of-women)
Two decades later, we see these manly and muscular people turning Machiavellian and producing the travesty of truth they call “Love Jihad”. In their accusation that Muslims have hatched a plot to increase their numbers, they show only their own devious thinking. Only men who belong to a military-style outfit and function in unison can believe that others too must think and act in the same planned and disciplined way. “We plot and scheme, so that is what our enemies must also do.”
Sanober Umar and Bhoomika Joshi have identified something more important that lies under all this. “[I]t remains uncontested that Hindutva forces are violent to all women. They may rape, mutilate and even murder Muslim women, but they also treat Hindu women as unthinking properties of the Hindu community. Their chivalry and politics of masculinity does not respect women; it renders them as objects of either pride or shame, but never as autono-mous subjects.” (http://www.hardnews-media.com/2014/09/6400) Many have seen what is obvious: that in the plan attributed to Muslims, women are brainless baby-making machines.
Modi’s tactic is to keep his designer clothes and fancy accessories well above the muck by remaining silent. He pretends to be the statesman while his associates get on with the rabble rousing. His elevation does not prevent him, of course, from formulating the filthy, vicious plans which they put into action: it is enough that no one sees what goes on inside the palace. We should remember the important fact that by not chastising, even mildly, the many in his “family” who freely spew hate and vend poison, he puts his stamp of approval on them.
Speech-makers are not all we have to contend with: there are those who exist for direct, muscular action and who are prepared for it. As Nivedita Menon has said, “The street gangs of the Hindu Right have been in readiness for this moment when Their Man is PM for some years now.” (http://www.outlookindia.com/article/When-Are-Foreign-Funds-Okay-/291077)
Pointing at our new leader, Pankaj Mishra writes: “India desperately needs a vision other than that of the vain small man trying to impress the big men with his self-improvised rules of the game.” (http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-09-29/narendra-modi-is-a-dangerous-cliche)
I cannot find fault with Mishra’s description, but I fear that by looking only at the individual we shall lose sight of what he represents. Modi can properly be called the front-man of two powerful forces: first, the RSS and its Hindutva ideology; and second, capitalism in its present form. At this time there does not seem to be any contradiction between the two.
It is well known that in this general election, the cadres of the RSS actively worked for the BJP and its prime ministerial candidate. Their effectiveness cannot be underestimated even where they were largely behind the scenes. Modi, since being elected, has been doing all he can for them. I shall not repeat what I have said earlier (“Rule by the majority”, http://www.sacw. net/article9562.html) about the marked growth of Hindutva in the public sphere.
It is well known also that the BJP fought this general election with vast sums of money provided by the capitalists. For one thing, the funds were enough to buy up nearly all the media. For another, the resources of companies were made available for the campaign—a good example is the aircraft of Adani used by Modi himself. Modi wasted no time in starting to pay his debts. Wherever you look—the dislodging of people from their homes, the rape of the environment in the interests of industry, the unfettered plundering of natural resources, the severe dilution of laws meant to protect the interests of workers—everywhere there are clear signs that the country is now run by a stooge of capital.
Two ideas which have been integral to India’s existence, and which are clearly stated in our Constitution, have been conclusively dislodged. India is no longer secular and India is no longer socialist. The Constitution, of course, is that document on which Modi’s power rests.
Finally, there is the matter of social class. I have nothing against a “chaiwala” leading the country. To object to that would be to say that only those may lead who are privileged by birth. But I object strenuously if a man who was once a chaiwala works only for wealthy people who can never have had a cup of chai at a roadside stall and who assists in the further exploitation of the poor. I object strenu-ously also if a Prime Minister shows, in the disgusting “humour” with which he feeds his followers, a mentality that would embarrass a genuine chaiwala.
The author is a writer, editor and photographer.