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How Dare They

Let us save our country while we can

Yesterday was full of earth-shattering, tectonic events for India’s democracy. But you probably have not realised this, all thanks to embedded TV channels and Panna Pramukhs, who are pretending otherwise.

It is not often that on one day the BJP president and the Union Defence Minister issue direct and open threats. It is unprecedented that this happens in broad daylight, with media coverage, and everyone pretends that it is business as usual. It isn’t.

Amit Shah said that the construction of Ram Temple would begin before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The issue is still sub-judice before the Apex Court. In a functioning democracy where the press was interested in self-respect and not self(ies), this would have led to shock and outrage, if not calls for contempt of court. Shah obviously believes that he is the Supreme Court, and why shouldn’t he –he got away with this astonishing statement: no one even blinked an eye.

The Raksha Mantri, Nirmala Sitharaman issued a threat on Friday the 13th. You would reckon that any threat issued by the defence minister of India would be to a hostile China or perfidious Pakistan. You are wrong. Sitharaman’s threat was against every Indian citizen and incredibly based on a fake news item that Congress president Rahul Gandhi had “told Muslim intellectuals that the Congress was a Muslim party”.

“Congress playing a dangerous game. It is playing up the card of religious and communal division. It is that it may lead to the kind of division and kind of communal disharmony which prevailed during 1947 partition,” said Sitharaman.

Millions of people died and were displaced during the partition of India in 1947. Congress party’s tallest leader, Mahatma Gandhi was fasting for peace and harmony in those days, trying to heal the wounds. But as Sardar Patel reminded Shyama Prasad Mukherjee in a letter after banning the RSS,“..our reports do confirm that, as a result of the activities of these two bodies (RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha), particularly the former (the RSS), an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy (Gandhi’s murder) became possible”.

Patel’s detailed order in 1948 while banning the RSS – BJP’s mentor and ideological parent — needs to be revisited now to unravel the diabolical nature of Sitharaman’s words: “[I]n several parts of the country, individual members of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity, and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunitions. They have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect fire arms….the cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh has claimed many victims. The latest and the most precious to fall was Gandhiji himself.”

It is a sad day for India and Indians that the national defence minister should invoke the partition as a threat so callously. The RSS and BJP may wish to whitewash the history of Partition and how they were on the same side as the Muslim League, invariably twinned by a two-nation theory. But the people of this country know the truth about who undertakes communal polarisation and who unleashes violence on hapless minorities. In the defence minister’s attempts to wash her government’s hands off the grave issue of law and order is a threat, not implicit or hidden, but very direct, given to the citizens of this country.

Incredibly the party in office at the centre and as BJP, Shah never tires of boasting having governments in 22 states was blaming the opposition for law and order and maintaining peace. If this abdication was not surreal enough, it comes in the wake of Ivy League-educated central minister Jayant Sinha garlanding and feting lynchers, all the while falsely claiming that his actions were in consonance with the Constitution.

Sitharaman was fielded by her party to hold a press conference based on a fake news item. The Congress had earlier held a press conference to deny the report in an Urdu daily. The party had also tweeted a denial. S Irfan Habib, a historian of repute who was present at the meeting with Rahul Gandhi, had also denied that any such statement was made. I have also spoken to three other people present at the meet who confirmed that no such exchange happened with Gandhi. They declined to be identified fearing a witch hunt by a vindictive Modi government.

Did the fake news make the Modi government pause and press stop? Not a bit. Following in the footsteps of her supreme leader Modi who during the Gujarat election had made fantasy claims of former PM Manmohan Singh and former Vice President Hamid Ansari conspiring with Pakistan to remove Modi. After milking his lie for electoral benefits, Modi’s blasé PMO said in an RTI reply that “they had no knowledge of the basis of the claims made by Modi”.

If the PM can fib, why should Union ministers be left behind? Especially when it comes to making communally polarising claims in general election season. From draping a lynching accused’s body in the tricolour in Dadri, done by culture minister Mahesh Sharma (he was promptly rewarded with former president A P J Kalam’s bungalow by Modi), Sharma had earlier insulted the former president by saying “despite being a Muslim”, to minister Sadhvi Jyoti Niranjan saying “it was Ram zade versus haram zade” in a campaign speech, to minister Giriraj Singh permanent “go to Pakistan” to any critic, Modi led BJP government has even made dog whistling crude.

I am not even quoting the rabid speeches of Uttar Pradesh CM anointed by Modi, Yogi Adityanath, as it might require more column space than is available here. Yogi has perhaps even outdone Modi as the bigoted’s heartthrob. It was audacious of the BJP to hold Gandhi responsible for communal amity after unleashing a regime of lynchings and “othering the minorities”.

This was not all. Perhaps for the first time, Shashi Tharoor, a senior Congress leader spelt out what anyone not living under a rock or drunk with Modi’s Kool-Aid already knows: that the BJP and RSS want to turn India into a Hindu Pakistan. A country where everything is subservient to religion and bigotry. This has been the long-nurtured dream of the Sangh, which they are in a position to implement for the first time in history — and mind you they will unless they are stopped.

Considering that the fountainhead of Hindutva, V Savarkar had written in his 1923 book of the same title on the Two-Nation theory, the outrage was a bit rich. Union minister and rabble-rouser Anant Hedge had already attacked secularism and said that we are here to change the Constitution. The Sangh mothership the RSS believes in the concept of a “Hindu Rashtra”. So why the anger?

Perhaps because the BJP views anything Muslim as reprehensible and does not like the comparison with an avowed Islamic State – Pakistan — while trying to make India its mirror image. They do not wish to acknowledge that the path chosen by India in 1947 – marked by a progressive, plural and liberal Constitution – as opposed to the one chosen by Pakistan, or the one wanted by the RSS, has been a success. Pakistan, our ugly neighbour, is the mirror seen by the RSS and BJP, when they see their ‘Hindu Rashtra’ face and they don’t like it.

Make no mistake, the Sangh believes the minorities are here on the sufferance of the majority and the very fact that the Raksha mantri can threaten citizens speaks volumes. Modi and Shah are punting for the tried and tested religious polarisation for the 2019 general elections as Modi simply cannot run on his mediocre track record in office.

Whether it is the corruption plan exposed by the collapse of the 2 G case or the much vaunted “good governance” it is utterly hollow. Hence the harking back to 1947, partition and “Hindu Khatrey mein hai” (Hindus are in danger) it is actually “Modi khatrey mein hai” (Modi is in danger).
Tharoor has clearly touched a raw nerve and the Congress should have backed him fully as he exposed clearly what the BJP stands for, under all the fancy packaging of “good governance”, “development” and the now discarded “acche din”. The window dressing needs to be exposed and the opposition has to relentlessly expose the bigoted heart and reality of “project Hindutva”. Tharoor deserved more backing from his party which is needlessly defensive on the Bjp’s all-out assault on the minorities and the Constitution.

The Gujarat model megaphoned by billionaire cronies of Modi proved to be a chimaera, the only thing that Modi has on his CV for the true believers are the 2002 riots. And now the BJP has let the Modi model loose across India. Sitharaman’s threat and Shah’s bellicose claim, also made on Friday the 13th — that the Ram Mandir would be constructed before 2019 — which is clearly an affront to the Supreme Court hearing the matter, is the real agenda of the BJP.

Be afraid. Be very very afraid as the country will see huge communal convulsions. Don’t say that the BJP did not warn you. But most importantly, fight. Fight if you truly love your country, fight this cancer of fascism that India is struggling with. India can’t be allowed to become a Hindu Pakistan. Let us save our country while we can.

Swati Chaturvedi is a Delhi based journalist.

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