During the course of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the apprehensions that this column raised regarding the ‘forked tongue’ agenda that will be pursued by the Modi government are now chillingly unfolding. While the people were promised development and prosperity, the real and the only agenda pursued over the last one year or so has been that of rabid communal polarisation based on hatred and violence.
The paradigm of national discourse has disastrously shifted. Litterateurs belonging to various Indian cultures and languages are returning their awards in protest against this government’s patronage of the ‘politics of hatred’, which has consumed the lives of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi. And these protests continue to swell. The RSS and BJP, as is their wont, have accused these distinguished minds of following a ‘political agenda’. Kalburgi was murdered in Karnataka, where the Congress government has the exclusive remit of ensuring law and order. These protests are, therefore, not aimed at a political target but symbolic of the nation’s angst against the culture of violence spewed by the RSS and BJP — a culture that Sardar Patel had noted, as India’s first home minister (when he banned the RSS), consumes many lives, including that of the Mahatma.
An agenda that is being forced on the country is the pre-occupation with issues like the murder of an innocent Muslim, Mohammed Ikhlaq, accused of eating beef, in Dadri, next to the national capital. The Haryana chief minister, without any compunction, has thundered that “Muslims can live in this country but they will have to give up eating beef”. Many BJP governments in states have banned the consumption of beef; in fact, some have extended this to mean all kinds of meat. These governments are on an overdrive to terrorise people through the spread of rabid intolerance. Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP is in power, has gone to the extent of banning eggs as part of the diet for children in the mid-day meal scheme. This, at a time when India leads the world in child malnutrition — a “national shame” as a former prime minister once described. Not to be left behind, the Shiv Sena, the BJP’s ally in Maharashtra, where the two are in power, has prevented noted Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali from performing in Mumbai.
This is the current Indian agenda, bordering on the surreal. The country’s preoccupation ought to have been on ways of realising the inherent potential of our people, particularly our youth. This is being stifled by the reality of prohibitive dal prices, coming on top of soaring prices of onions and other items of daily consumption. Agrarian distress continues to deepen, with more farmers committing suicide. Negating the loud theory of an industrial resurgence, factories are closing down as the purchasing power in the hands of our people continues to dip. Whatever meagre relief was provided through the earlier welfare measures like the rural employment guarantee and food security has virtually come to a naught. Central allocation to the MGNREGS has declined by a whopping 60% during the past one year.
And yet Modi goes about his packaged foreign tours. There he promises an Indian El Dorado to an NRI audience (who migrated from India for a better life), which eagerly laps up this rhetoric but with no intention of returning to India. There we are promised, through compulsory live media coverage, a resurgent India, a digital India, etc. In the meanwhile, many BJP Cabinet ministers and MPs go about inciting communal passions through their speeches.
Soon after this government assumed office, Parliament had sought an assurance from Modi that BJP leaders who incited communal passion would be proceeded against under Indian law. To date, he has refused to give any such assurance. His actions, on the contrary, only confirm that his government acts as the ‘protector’ of such activities.
Take a look at the principal media reports, say, in countries where the prime minister woos investors: “Imperiling not only the economic development Mr Modi has promised but also India’s open, inclusive democracy …” (New York Times); “Is India becoming more openly, and indeed violently, intolerant?” (BBC); “The shocking (government) response to a terrible murder speaks of the rise of politics of hatred” (Financial Times).
Trying to fabricate evidence and showing that the Vedas were written in the eighth century BC, the RSS and BJP now invokes Vedic sanction for punishing those who kill cows. Internationally reputed Indian historians of ancient and medieval India have documented the Vedic ritual of cow sacrifice extensively. The subsequent discarding of this practice, leading to the prohibition of meat eating, could well have been part of the Brahmanical revival onslaught against the universal influence of Buddhism. The rise of Buddhism and the prohibition of Vedic ritual sacrifices are, indeed, associated with the establishment of the agrarian economy, in which bovine animals were required for agricultural operations. Such matters of history, however, are not the concern of the RSS and BJP. They totally undermine all the wisdom that is contained in the Vedic scriptures, the life and work of Hindu saints, and thinkers of all other religious faiths.
These are the lands where humanism preaches that different faiths are like different rivers flowing through different courses into the oceans. The RSS and BJP seek to interconnect all the Indian rivers to ensure that they flow only in their direction.
Sitaram Yechury is general secretary of the CPI(M). The views expressed are personal.