Narendra Modi’s endorsement of Indian Muslims might have come a trifle late. But its significance or expedience cannot be downplayed in the light of internal security imperatives dovetailed to his economic agenda.
The Prime Minister defended unambiguously the community long painted by him and his ideological Parivar as one with extra-territorial loyalties. Even in the recent bypolls the BJP so badly lost in Uttar Pradesh, the party’s campaign revolved around what it propagated as ‘love jihad’ to convert Hindu girls to Islam.
Modi’s silence through the campaign was confounding -- more so because it was an antithesis of his economic agenda the fruition of which depended on the ecology of social peace. An alienated mass of 170-180 million Indians was as much bad news for internal security amid the media hyperbole over a handful of Muslim youth misled into joining the Islamic State’s killer gangs in Iraq and Syria.
The al Qaeda’s proposed competitive ‘jihad’ in our region to beat back the ISIS challenge added to the scenario a dimension no government could have risked ignoring. In fact, Modi’s uncharacteristic overture to Muslims was in response to a question on Ayman al-Zawhiri’s announcement of the Qaeda’s India wing.
Read: Modi says Indian Muslims will live and die for India
It’s difficult to deduce at this juncture whether Modi’s remark marked a departure from the politics of attrition he’s known to have practised or approved in Gujarat and in his successful bid for power at the Centre.
The fact nevertheless remains that he hasn’t ever been as upfront in his endorsement of Muslims as he was in his interview to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria: “Indian Muslims will live and die for India. They will not want anything bad for India.”
He chose his words as carefully as the forum that afforded him, on the eve of his visit to the US, a global audience on an issue on which he has rarely inspired confidence. “My understanding is that they (al Qaeda) are doing injustice towards Muslims of our country. If anyone thinks Indian Muslims will dance to their tunes, they are delusional,” he said.
For a lasting connect with the community apprehensive of his ways, Modi has to start charity from home. A good beginning in that direction will be the acceptance by his party and the RSS of his call for a 10-year moratorium on social conflict.