It has taken a while coming. But now that it has, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has minced no words about his unhappiness with the anti-minority remarks made by elements within the larger Sangh parivar.
From day one of the NDA government, the Sangh and other Right-wing Hindu outfits have behaved as though they had suddenly acquired the licence to air their regressive and often hateful views on the minorities. Unfortunately, such sentiments were not confined only to the fringes. A minister in the NDA government made crude and unacceptable references asking people to distinguish between those who revered Lord Ram and others who did not. For this, she got nothing more than a mild reprimand. At least two BJP MPs have made incendiary remarks about the minorities, for which, again, they got off quite lightly.
The Sangh itself has been aggressively promoting the Ghar Wapsi campaign to get Muslims and sometimes Christians back into the Hindu fold.
The Sangh and other Hindutva elements have made no bones about their desire to usher in a Hindu rashtra. But, in their misguided zeal, they seemed to have thought that the vehicle for this would be the BJP government. In the past too, Mr Modi has made it clear that all religions and creeds would be respected and that no one can act outside the law when it comes to minority rights. Yet, there have been religiously motivated attacks on churches and mosques and needlessly provocative remarks about how Hindus should have more children to avoid being overrun by the minorities.
Mercifully, the majority of Indians don’t want to have any truck with this divisive rhetoric. They voted in the Modi government not on the plank of religious exclusion but on development. Mr Modi has taken pains to reiterate this when he spoke of the equality of all religions and communities.
It is important that not just the PM but the top BJP leadership is more vocal against these attempts at minority-bashing by the Sangh and its affiliates. It does our secular ethos no credit to equate Muslims with Pakistan or Christians with being proselytisers. It is no one’s case that there should be any minority appeasement of any sort, but the instances of discrimination and intolerance have been growing. This has been to the detriment of the greater goal of development and economic growth.
This is what Mr Modi was trying to set right with his unambiguous words to these divisive and regressive forces.