The country is ‘rejoicing’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘came, saw and conquered’ US visit. The PTI reporting of the Madison Square Garden event gave him ‘rock star celebrity’ status! He himself claimed credit, upon return, rhetorically asking: “Kya karan hai ki aaj America mein bhi Hindustan ka danka baj raha hai?” (What are the reasons as to why India’s trumpet is being blown in America?) [@ani_news, October 4].
Rewind to March 8, 1971. I was in New York as the Indian representative of the World Youth Forum. The city was full of excitement over “the fight of the century” at the very same Madison Square Garden. Cassius Clay, who after refusing the US ‘draft law’ to compulsorily serve in the US army had embraced Islam to become Muhammad Ali, challenged the reigning world heavyweight boxing champion, Joe Frazier. The two hitherto “undefeated fighters” combating to decide the “real” champion was hyped as “the event of the 20th century” that transcended boxing. “The fight” split the US down the middle. Rooting for Ali meant one was against the Vietnam war, and backing Frazier meant support to a “white conservative” America. Frazier won in a gruelling fight that lasted full 15 rounds. The news next day was Ali visiting “champion” Frazier, who was in the hospital, treating his wounds!
Likewise, the moment our prime minister returned to India having “conquered” the US, inviting them to invest in India — “Make in India” — US President Barack Obama in his weekly radio address to the nation said that “it was America and not India or China that was the most attractive investment destination in the world”! Whose trumpet is being blown, Mr Prime Minister?
However, our prime minister borrowed Obama’s practice of regular radio broadcasts to the nation. Upon return, he began this on October 3. ‘Officially’ this address was supposedly to mark Gandhi Jayanti. But October 3 was also Vijaya Dashami. The RSS, since its foundation, has always hoisted the saffron flag on Vijaya Dashami with the annual RSS sarsanghchalak’s address. Not to annoy the RSS, lest the PM is seen as also donning the mantle of the RSS chief, the country’s ‘autonomous’ Prasar Bharati shamelessly obliged to nationally telecast the RSS chief’s Vijaya Dashami address. Facile justifications notwithstanding, it is clear that the national broadcaster is now reduced to being the propaganda arm of the RSS/BJP.
In a secular, democratic India, where constitutionally all religions are treated as equal, with guaranteed rights to religious minorities, will Prasar Bharati now nationally broadcast speeches of the chiefs of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Khalistani or such other proponents? The RSS was banned following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Likewise, the Jamaat-e-Islami was banned earlier. Khalistani and many other outfits that seek the dismemberment of India are treated as ‘anti-national’ organisations. Are we to legitimise such organisations/outfits by providing State patronage by broadcasting their leaders’ speeches? This is simply unacceptable as long as “We, the people” remain committed to our Constitution.
During the PM’s US visit, a so-called ‘Vision Statement’ appeared as a joint editorial by Obama and the PM in the Washington Post titled ‘Chalein Saath Saath: Forward together we go’. Chalein Saath Saath is the Hindi translation of a line from the famous anthem of the African-Americans popularised by Rev Martin Luther King Jr — ‘We shall overcome’. Ominously, this translation, popularised by the Left in India, was hijacked and elevated to the level of an anthem by Sanjay Gandhi during the Emergency which saw the abrogation of democracy, democratic rights and civil liberties.
In the US, our PM highlighted India’s commitment to fighting terrorism, saying India makes no distinction between “bad terrorism” and “good terrorism”. Soon after came his one-to-one meeting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli attacks on the Palestinians are ‘justified’ by such definitions, continuing to deny the Palestinians their basic fundamental right to a homeland. Once again an ominous signal.
Those expecting the India-US Joint statement to be a significant advance from the past were forewarned by the spokesman of India’s ministry of external affairs: This India-US Summit interaction had only a limited agenda: “three major components — connecting with each other, vision for the ties and cooperation in various areas”. What emerged instead is the deepening of the India-US strategic partnership, drawing India closer as a strategic, subordinate US ally, globally.
In his first Independence Day speech from Red Fort, the PM spoke of making India an industrial hub by declaring ‘Made in India’ as our ‘motto’. In the US, he said “Make in India” repeatedly. The former is propagated to declare the strengthening of India’s domestic industrial base while the latter is an open invitation for foreign investment, particularly US investment. Their main objective always remains profit maximisation and not augmenting India’s productive capacities. India, thus, appears ready to further liberalise its economy through a greater opening up of our markets, resources and cheap labour for profit maximisation. This is the surest recipe for imposing further hardship on the Indian people.
The RSS chief’s nationally televised speech warns of “a serious upsurge in jihadi activities”, especially in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and “illegal migration of a particular community” in West Bengal, Assam, etc. Such efforts to sharpen communal polarisation come while urging people to restore “the pride of their national Hindu identity”. He said that for millennia, “The unbroken current of national thinking that has prevailed in the vast region between Himalayas and its extensions on one side and the sea on the other, has been known as Hindutva”. He, thus, completely negates the syncretic civilisational advances of our great country.
Thus, the agenda is clear: Transform the secular, democratic Indian Republic into the RSS vision of a rabidly intolerant fascistic ‘Hindu rashtra’ while simultaneously reducing ourselves to being a subordinate ally of US imperialism.
Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP.
The views expressed by the author are personal.