Modi and Hindu Nationalism – Irfan Engineer

Irfan Engineer

The Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is expecting to be anointed as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate in the forthcoming Loksabha elections seems to enjoy controversies that surround him. Narendra Modi chooses his words very carefully, and is ably advised by his public relations managers in this regard. “Kutte ka pilla”, “hiding behind burkha of secularism”, “I am proud to be a Hindu nationalist” are some of the words carefully chosen to stoke controversies and polarize the debate and run a sub-terrain communal campaign for the general elections, and to benefit from the polarization of the electorate. Modi resorts to innuendoes and subterfuges to communalize the electorate. If he is not using these words in a calculated manner, is his vocabulary is so naturally communal? In either case, the voters should be worried for voting him to power! When Modi says he is a Hindu Nationalist and proud to be one, let us understand that he and his ilk are neither nationalists, nor Hindu and are not even proud to be one!

Nationalist:

The RSS under whose tutelage Modi grew to be CM of Gujarat, never participated in the freedom movement of the country. In fact they kept arms length from the freedom movement and always supported the British colonial masters. Their Khakhi shorts uniform was on advice of British Colonial masters. When the whole country was agitated in the year 1942 and asked Britishers to “quit India”, the RSS and the Muslim League both were mobilizing support for the imperialist World War II. Nationalists were bravely facing imperialist’s canes, gun fire, jail and torture for giving asking the British to quit India. British masters suggested that their (RSS’s) drills to train army of supporters for the war should not be mistaken to be official soldiers and therefore advised the RSS to adopt Khaki shorts as their uniforms rather than khaki trousers, and they obliged the Britishers! Not a single RSS leader participated in the freedom movement. They always supported the colonial masters!

Nationalism for the RSS meant supporting the British, participating in communal riots to help the cause of British in their divide and rule policy, while the nationalists were making herculean efforts to unite the people of India for freedom movement. For Nathuram Godse Hindu nationalism, or patriotism, their preferred terminology meant assassinating Gandhiji as his liberal and inclusive Hinduism was the biggest obstacle to the spread of Hindutva ideology. Let us not blame Modi for RSS’s stand during freedom movement as he was born post-Independence in the year 1950.

Nationalism in post colonial period should mean defending independence of the nation and building institutions of the nation to ensure that all the citizens have equal stake and equal share. However Modi is busy destroying institutions of democracy that the nation built. For example, unprecedented numbers of top ranking police officers are behind bars in Gujarat! The police machinery to protect the people of Gujarat and secure the institutions of democracy were instead busy working to keep Modi happy. Modi has passed a Lok Ayukta law wherein the Judiciary and the Governor or any independent body would have no say in appointment of lokayukta in Gujarat. The lokayukta will be appointed by those who are likely to be accused of corruption! How can a person promoting himself and building his charisma rather than the nation be nationalistic?

Modi openly declared that for him Hindu Nationalism meant being pro-industry. Therefore, for Modi nationalism means facilitating the crony capitalism to grow rapidly at the cost of the poor and the marginalized, particularly the peasants and the fishing community. Patriotism means grabbing 1100 acres of land belonging to the peasants in Sanand (Ahmedabad Dist.) and transferring overnight to Tata Motors at even cheaper rate than what it paid to the farmers. Patriotism means a Rs 9,570 crore soft loan (close to 25 per cent of Gujarat’s annual budget) over 20 years, which Tata Motors will repay in 20 years, at 0.1 per cent interest rate and will repay the land price in eight equal annual instalments. In addition the Government will build four lane Road to the Tata Nano Factory and power plant. Robinhood robbed the rich to pay the poor. Modi robs the poor taxpayers of Gujarat to pay the Tatas and the Adanis, the Ambanis and Karsanbhai Patel. It is this robbing Paul to pay Peter policy that has further impoverished the people of the state. When faced with the stark reality of malnutrition, the insensitive Modi adds salt to the wounds of people and says, it is the beauty consciousness of the women in Gujarat that has led to malnutrition! People of Gujarat – Hindus or Muslims – do not figure in the scheme of patriotism and the Govt. does not even want to think of solutions for malnutrition! The language of patriotism/nationalism is to attempt to instil sense of false pride in the people to make them forget their plight, just like the “India Shining” campaign in the year 2004 designed by another Hindu Nationalist – Advani.

Can Modi claim to be a nationalist when his team allegedly looked for Gujaratis only to be rescue from the Uttarakhand cloud burst disaster and left out all other stranded Indians?

Nationalism for the Hindu Nationalists always meant spreading hatred against minorities to obfuscate the reality of impoverishment of people due to calculated policies of the Govt. to support the industries and private profiteers from taxpayers’ money. The Hindu nationalism discourse means demonizing and targeting the minorities. Demonizing and overlooking the violence that targets minorities acts as a valve for the toiling poor from majority community to vent their frustration under Govt. patronage. The energy generated by the frustration of the poor from majority community should be used to bring about change and force a more equitable growth and saner policies to benefit the most marginalised. Instead, it gets channelized in targeting minorities and letting off the heat. Modi is therefore not Nationalist but pro-crony capitalism and nationalism to him leading the majority community to attack imaginary windmills that the minorities are.

Hindu?

To Gandhiji, Hindu religion meant truth and ahimsa. “Religion is a matter of the heart”, Gandhiji said, “No physical inconvenience can warrant abandonment of one’s own religion.” Elsewhere Gandhiji said, “I worship God as Truth only. I have not yet found Him, but I am seeking after Him. I am prepared to sacrifice the things dearest to me in pursuit of this quest. Even if the sacrifice demanded my very life, I hope I may be prepared to give it.” Satya, ahimsa and self sacrifice were three pillars and litmus test of Hinduism for Gandhiji. Can one imagine Modi speaking truth and only truth? He did not contradict when the media published that Modi organised 80 Innovas to rescue 15,000 Gujaratis in two days!! Later, after a few days when saner people questioned that the proposition does not stand the logic, his people quickly claimed that the statement was not made by Modi! He has been caught lying so much that he has earned the sobriquet of “feku” Modi claims credit for everything that every Gujarati has done since decades, even before he came to power! His Govt. machinery has been eliminating and murdering innocent citizens and claiming that they were killed in encounter! Sohrabuddin Modi, Kauser Bano, Tulsiram Prajapati, Ishrat Jehan are a few cases where Modi Govt’s hand was caught in a cookie jar! Eliminating unarmed citizens and claiming himself to be target of terrorists to become a “Hindu Hero”! Can such a person who is not truthful be a Hindu? Gandhiji would disown such a person. Modi’s ahimsa is too well known to warrant any comment and explication. For Gandhiji, Hinduism would mean sacrificing one’s interest and oneself to save those needy and suffering. Modi could sacrifice scores to protect his interests and marginalize even his own guru who helped him become CM of Gujarat and politically protected him post 2002 riots. Modi fails on all the three counts that Gandhiji set for being a Hindu. While Modi and his action-reaction justification for Gujarat 2002 riots was not only a big lie, it was also demonizing the minorities. Gandhiji, a sanatan dharm follower, wrote in Young India, January 19, 1928, “I came to the conclusion long ago … that all religions were true and also that all had some error in them, and whilst I hold by my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism.”

Another great Hindu exponent, Radhakrishnan said, “Hinduism is not bound up with a creed or a book, a prophet or a founder, but is persistent search for truth on the basis of a continuously renewed experience. Hinduism is human thought about God in continuous evolution.” To seek God is to learn the virtue of tolerance. Tolerance is the homage which the finite mind pays to the inexhaustibility of the Infinite. From the time of the Rig Veda till today, India has been the home of different religions and the Indian genius adopted a policy of live and let live towards them. Indian religion never quite understood the idea of exclusive worship. Indian religious tradition admits all forms in which the single truth is reflected. Radhakrishnan also emphasised on earnestly seeking truth.

Acceptance of diversity is another important pillar of Hinduism. Radhakrishnan wrote, “Hinduism represents an effort at comprehension and cooperation. It recognizes the diversity in man’s approach towards, and realization of, the one Supreme Reality. For it the essence of religion consists in man’s hold on what is eternal and immanent in all being.” Even Supreme Court of India, in one of its judgement commented on Hinduism thus – “When we think of the Hindu religion, unlike other religions in the world, the Hindu religion does not claim any one prophet; it does not worship any one god; it does not subscribe to any one dogma; it does not believe in any one philosophic concept; it does not follow any one set of religious rites or performances; in fact, it does not appear to satisfy the narrow traditional features of any religion or creed. It may broadly be described as a way of life and nothing more.” For the Hindu, every religion is true, if only its adherents sincerely and honestly follow it. They will then get beyond the creed to the experience, beyond the formula to the vision of the truth.

Modi on the other hand has been targeting and demonizing minorities and their religion with subterfuges and innuendos. In his speeches during Gaurav Yatra, Modi said the minorities were multiplying like rabbits due to “Ham Panch hamare Pachchees” (marrying four wives and having large families) policy. Radhakrishnan writes, “My religious sense did not allow me to speak a rash or a profane word of anything which the soul of man holds or has held sacred. The attitude of respect for all creeds, this elementary good manner in matters of spirit, is bred into the marrow of one’s bones by the Hindu tradition.”

Proud?

Is Modi a proud follower of “Hindu Nationalism” that he claims to be? Modi has changed his agenda so often to suit his political interests, that it would not be hard to conclude that he could not be a proud of his “Hindu Nationalism”. If he was proud of “Hindu Nationalism”, what was he doing when BJP in order to be in power from 1998 to 2004 gave a go by to Hindutva agenda of amending article 370, introducing Uniform Civil Code, building Ram temple in Ayodhya? A proud person would sacrifice everything to hold on to his principles he is proud about and sacrifice his interests. Modi is not known to have done any such thing! From 2002 that he was in power, he never offered to resign on issues he now claims he is proud about. The only Hindu Nationalism he is proud about is his track record of presiding over a Govt. that oversaw 2002 violence! Can he be proud about the fact that he is facilitating crony-capitalism in Gujarat make quick bucks while the most backward district in the country is not in Bihar or Uttar Pradesh or Odisha or even in North-East but in Gujarat – The Dangs! That all the money to be spend on drinking water schemes in the district was utilized to fund providing drinking water only in a single village where Shabri Kumbh Mela was held under in famous Swami Aseemanand, the accused in Mecca Masjid blast and other terrorist cases? The whole of Dangs is thirsty even today and funds for drinking water schemes have dried up but the outsiders who assembled in a village for manufactured tradition in the name of Shabri Kumbh with political motive were provided drinking water just for about a week?

Modi resorts to phrases like “burkha of secularism”, “Mia Musharraf” “kutte ke pilley” etc. and scores to come in days ahead, only to cover up the fact that he is not even an honest and earnest follower of Hindutva. Even Hindutva for him is a ploy to gain and hold on to power.

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