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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 30 New Delhi July 13, 2019

Spectre of New India

Saturday 13 July 2019

by Zulafqar Ahmed

India has been an epitome of pluralism, tolerance, and diversity since the ages. The religious, cultural, and ethnic diversity of India has left inerasable imprints all over the world. Varieties of social groups and ideological differences among the communities could not shake the unity of India. India was imagined by Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar, Patel, Azad, Ashfa-qullah, and Bhagat Singh as a country where love ruled over hatred, mutual-coexistence ruled over exclusion. Diversity, inclusiveness and tolerance of India remained intact even during successive governments.

Unfortunately, after the rise of the BJP to power in 2014, they successfully arrested the idea of ‘Old India’ which was envisaged by our forefathers. The Narendra Modi-led BJP Government has given a new shift to Indian politics. This government has made the majority to believe that their pride has been hurt and their identity is under threat. Intermittently propagating this lie made the people to believe that it is time to reclaim lost pride and identity under the patronage of Narendra Modi. The Opposition has almost failed to counter this narrative of the Modi-led BJP Government. They don’t have any clear vision and agenda which can mobilise the masses whereas the BJP and RSS have a clear vision of making a ‘New India’ which would be more centralised, strong, masculine and technocratic.

Demonisation of Minorities

After the assumption of the BJP to power, the minorities are feeling more vulnerable under this regime than under any other regime. They were made the first target of vilification in order to project them as fictitious enemy which further unified the majority community. Certainly, there were several faultlines which were in existence in India before the rise of the BJP, but they hardly erupted into violence. It was the BJP which battered these faultlines for electoral gains. The BJP has invoked hatred, fear, intimidation and extra-judicial methods to suppress the minorities. Lynching has become the new norm of the day and ‘Jai Shri Ram’ has become the new national chant to heckle, thrash and kill the Muslims. It has been instilled in the social psyche that Muslims are the foreign invaders and they are the real threat to India’s unity.

A social consensus and consent is being generated for the conduct of this violence against the Muslims, Dalits and Christians. Street violence and lynching are being carried out with the help of a well-framed organisational structure that goes by the name ‘gau raksha’. The ‘gau rakshaks’ are the vigilante mob, backed by the ruling government to beat and kill the Muslims. The most horrific part of this violence is the ‘deliberate silence’ of the top leadership of the ruling party which further encourages the lynch mob.

Demise of Nehruvian Left/Liberal Secularism

Indeed, secularism has been the most debatable concept in India and it has created many confusions. But what is true is that secularism in India was clearly a product of the Nehruvian vision. It was essentially about state policy towards all religions. It was meant that the state will keep a distance from all religions. Nehruvian secularism is the social philosophy which has a wide canvas. It not only aspires for tolerance but it also seeks mutual respect among all caste, regional, ethnic and linguistic groups. Nehruvian Left/liberal secularism indeed expects generosity of the majority community towards the minority community.

This narrative to a great extent continues even under this government. But after the rise of the BJP to power, they succeed in projecting that secularism is ‘pro-minorities’. It was also argued that progressive/liberal intellectuals are hypocrites; they remained silent on the bigotry of the minority community that helped the BJP to mobilise the majority community under its patronage. Selective outrage of progressive/ liberal intellectuals made people to believe that secularism is prejudicial to the majority community. Regarding Nehruvian Left/liberal secularism Avijit Pathak rightly argued: “Today, we find ourselves in a strange situation. It is a world where there is neither a Nehruvian Left-centric secularism nor does a Gandhian spiritualised religion co-exist.”

Under this BJP Government, where the minorities are under a grave threat and where democratic values like inclusiveness, tolerance and secularism are on the death-bed, the onus goes to the Opposition to counter the narratives which have been created by the BJP. It is also high time for the Opposition to reclaim these democratic values which kept Indian democracy alive for many years. Here, it is also pertinent to mention that if the Modi-led BJP Government is really desperate for making a ‘New India’, then they should work for a more digitalised, industrialised, tolerant and inclusive India.

Zulafqar Ahmed is a Doctorate Fellow at the Department of Political Science, Aligarh Muslim University. His e-mail is: ahmedzulafqar78[at]gmail.com

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