A Victory for Hateful Ideologues

Source: Al-Jazeera

Perhaps the most toxic idea that I have learned about as a native Indian is the Two-Nation Theory. To most Hindu and Pakistani nationalists, communal violence in India is a great ideological victory. A vindication of their convictions. A “Thank You Jinnah” or “Hail Savarkar” moment. None of the communal violence that you see in India is a coincidence. The Indian Right Wing, dominated by Savarkar’s Hindutva philosophy, a reactionary cultural nationalist movement that largely sees Islam or any “foreign” faith as a threat to the “Indic civilization,” had been patiently building the popular support for a Hindu nationalist rule. It would have gone

The week following Shivratri and Delhi’s election with Aam Aadmi Party getting a sweeping victory was perhaps the bloodiest in North Eastern Delhi in living memory. The “Hindu retaliation” was in response to the street protests of the Muslim community in North-Eastern Delhi in the wake of the passage of the controversial CAA or Citizen Amendment Act, which singles out Muslims as a community. The retaliation particularly erupted after an angry speech by local BJP leader Kapil Mishra who warned of consequences for protesters blocking those neighborhoods in the capital. At least 30 people lost their lives, mostly Muslims, as a result, except dozens getting injured and losing their homes and businesses.

I recall that no too long ago, I used to have heated discussions with my fellow citizens in Pakistan about the Indian secularism and the BJP being a theocratic, fundamentalist political party. Even though I still believe India is a secular democracy as of this date, I do confess that I have to reconsider my stance on Narendra Modi’s and Amit Shah’s BJP. I do believe that the BJP is not any different from a dangerous theocratic party such as the Jamaat-e-Islami and the TLP in Pakistan. The supporters of these hate groups are potential murderers of their opponents and are very dangerous people indeed.

This is not just a matter of opinion anymore, it has become an almost verifiable fact with plenty of evidence on social media. Examine the commentary of any pro-Hindutva or even a moderate BJP supporter and you will find an openly Islamophobic and malicious intention to purge India of anything that does not fit their view of what is supposed to be Hindu patriotism. They have successfully otherized a minority, Muslims, and convinced their followers that they are an oppressed majority persecuted by Muslims whose faith is a constant existential threat to them. Here are only a few specimens but you can literally follow them to read and watch such bile at just about any time of the day.

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That’s alright. This is their politics and they are proud of the fact but actually taking them as serious, well-meaning people reflect poorly on people who give their opinions space. I am always willing to listen to them but I wonder what many of the Muslims, especially those of the Bengali or Rohingya descent, might think about them. It is more like talking to your potential killer, you know, the kind of feeling a Pakistani Christian, Hindu, or Ahmedi might go through when speaking to a Sunni Punjabi.

In the end, Indian Hindus, and yes, largely Indian Hindus will decide how they want to see their country. Do they want to see it a bastion of theocratic nationalism that it is on the path of becoming, cornering, if not eliminating, unfavorable minorities, kind of like Pakistan, or whether it wants to be a liberal, secular democracy where each citizen has an equal chance, at least in theory. The Hindu-Muslim riots may be an ideological victory for communitarian theocrats in the subcontinent but it surely threatens the idea of the Indian Republic that gave the people of this land a hope after a dark partition.

As for Pakistanis such as myself, the death of a secular India will mean the death of a political idealism that associated us with the Indian subcontinent. With darkness all around, perhaps the American Constitution remains the only last hope for a liberal democracy if it is not consumed by partisan polarized politics in the United States.

So what if Indian democracy is dead.

How the Idea That Killed Gandhi Has Slowly Taken Over

Source: newspapers.com

India and the world are celebrating the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. I call him the Mahatma because I believe he was a great soul, an extraordinary man. The current Indian government would also refer to him as Mahatma Gandhi or a more affectionate “bapuji” or dear father. But do they really think he was a great soul? Or even a great leader whose ideals should be followed?

The words from the Indian Prime Minister in his New York op-ed are very encouraging. He reminds why the world, and especially India, needs Gandhi more than ever. But the revival of the Hindutva ideology under his leadership since the disastrous leadership crisis in the Congress Party, the soul of the Indian democracy has never been the same.

As somebody who is currently a citizen of Pakistan, who was born in Pakistan, not only do I understand Indian nationalism, even the fears and desires behind the Hindutva ideology, but also the pain of the partition of India. Perhaps the most underrated and ignored political concept in India is the deprivation of Indian nationalism to the millions of people living under what is Pakistan and Bangladesh today. So I write this more as an Indian than as a Pakistani.

The greatest triumph of the Congress Party was to establish India as a Secular Republic, which immediately established its moral superiority over Pakistan, which was precisely established for the purpose of the Muslim majority. This was not something that Gandhi or the Congress did for their health, but it was a hand forced on them by the British colonists leaving in a hurry, who prevented India from recognizing its nationalist potential. These colonists thought that they were treating communities fairly while ignoring what kind of a humanitarian disaster they were creating.

These are the quoted words of Nathuram Godse after he killed Gandhi to quote a piece from the Hindustan Times.

“I do say that my shots were fired at the person whose policy and action had brought rack and ruin and destruction to millions of Hindus,” Godse told the court.

He added: “I bear no ill will towards anyone individually, but I do say that I had no respect for the present government owing to their policy, which was unfairly favourable towards the Muslims. But at the same time I could clearly see that the policy was entirely due to the presence of Gandhi.”.

The RSS that nurtured Godse, which by the way is not the “Nazi Party” the Pakistani leader Imran Khan and his political party PTI assert, has become the dominant force in Indian politics today. Its members in Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have firmly gripped the helm of its leadership and they are mobilizing the Hindu community to vote as one bloc across North and Central India. While this still does not affect the Secular character of India, it has started threatening it.

The same RSS member Narendra Modi has written a piece preaching Gandhi’s values to the world. However, slowly, they are closing the breathing space for the minority populations. The retaliatory politics that gave rise to the Two-Nation theory also gave rise to its Hindutva ideology. And both of them run counter to the kind of pluralist, secular, liberal India that was envisioned by its fathers.

Fortunately, for both these ideologies, which might have always found an opening in the manifesto of the BJP, fed off each other thanks to a belligerent and increasingly Islamist Pakistan. Despite the almost fatal blow to the Two-Nation theory after the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, the animosity of the Two-Nation theory remained as the bone of contention of Kashmir which had triggered wars even before the conflict had ever come to Bengal. Even today, you would find Islamist fanatics in Pakistan quoting obscure traditions about a “Ghazwa-e-Hind.”

Over the years of the Secular Indian government’s regressive concessions to theocrats in India and Pakistan’s constant intrusions in India, somewhere the dent was made in the wall of the classical secular pluralism which had become synonymous with the Indian Republic. Which despite its problems of poverty, inefficiency, and corruption was still one of the most exemplary nations in terms of its harmonious reason-to-be. Slowly, the belief in the principles of Gandhi’s India started to dwindle.

And despite a lack of major communal riots, there is silent persecution underway that is closing the space to the minority communities claim an equal right to India, let alone flourish. There are rampant mob-lynching by almost legally sanctioned gau rakshaks who are getting off the hook after beating people to death.

Perhaps this is why discourse such as controversial BJP MP Pragya Raj calling Godse a patriot became possible in an election season. It is why statements, as quoted in this news report, has become possible in India without consequences.

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I still have faith in the modern Republic of India because I know it has fathers in men like Bhimrao Ambedkar. I still have faith in the robust Secular Indian democracy because it got its textbook right with a fair system of justice and politics. I still have faith in the BJP as a secular popular party, despite the growing malignancy of the RSS and Hindutva agenda slowly weakening Indian pluralism.

But let’s just say it’s a faith that would be too precarious for even an idealist and an optimist like Gandhi himself.

I am sorry for choosing to write something that centers more on Gandhi’s death on the occasion of his 150th birthday, but I feel as if his India is being slowly killed at this moment in history too.