As things turn from bad to worse, the only option before the BJP is to stir the communal cauldron more vigorously than ever before.
AIJAZ ZAKA SYED | Caravan Daily
THE General Elections in India are still a year away. Yet given the state of the nation today, the electorate cannot seemingly wait to throw out the dispensation that came promising ‘ache din,’ not to mention tall claims like 20 million jobs, bullet trains, Rs 15 lakh in every bank account and, above all, good governance.
With disasters mounting on every front, that talk of ‘ache din’ sounds like a bad joke today. Indeed, the joke is on us – the people of India. Forget good governance and endless dreams of emerging as the next great power, ordinary Indians should thank their lucky stars if they manage to survive another day or week under this regime unscathed.
The economy is in a mess. Yet the bulls of Bombay Sensex continue to gallop and the rich get richer. But markets wouldn’t tell you how many million small and medium businesses and jobs have been wiped out by the catastrophe called demonetisation or the chaos that followed it in the name of GST.
If the systematic crackdown on the meat and leather industry in the name of cow has deprived millions of livelihoods in Uttar Pradesh, the twin disasters of demonetisation and GST have broken the back of indigenous industries like the famous weavers of Benares, locksmiths of Aligarh and skilled artisans of Moradabad’s metal industries.
Incidentally, majority of those working in these traditional industries happen to be Muslims who form 20% of UP’s 200-million population. These artisans with their amazing skills, passed down from generation to generation, would have been cherished as a nation’s pride elsewhere. In India, they are on the verge of extinction.
It’s not just artisans; driven to desperation by bad loans and disastrous government policies, thousands of farmers have killed themselves.
In many ways, UP is a microcosm of the nation, mirroring what has gone wrong with the dream that the BJP and Modi sold to India with the flourish of a magician. The dream has turned sour.
Considering the massive electoral mandate that Modi was handed in 2014, the crushing disappointment and disenchantment of the faithful – the middle classes, upper castes and corporates constituting the BJP’s support base — is understandable.
Truth be told, India has extended Modi and company a long, long rope. Despite the shocking ineptitude witnessed on virtually every front, it has taken a long, long time for India to fall out of love with the glib-talking salesman and see the reality of his phony product.
The BJP’s core supporters did not mind it when the rank and file started showing the minorities who the boss is. The Hindu raj is here after ‘1200 years of slavery’. So lynching a Muslim here, burning a mosque there is fine as long these ‘incidents’ do not affect markets, businesses and overall governance.
The tide started turning when the BJP’s traditional supporters began to feel the heat with the economy struggling and businesses began disappearing. After the tall claims of fighting corruption and allowing Robber barons like Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya to escape came the rude shock of the Rs.12,000-crore PNB scam involving PM’s pals from the blessed land of Gujarat.
The fact that Nirav Modi dined and photographed himself with ‘Narendra bhai’ as a member of Indian delegation at the World Economic Forum in Davos just before decamping with the booty has left a lingering distaste in the mouth for many.
The disasters of the recent CBSE paper leaks and the government’s pathetic response to multiple crises in the educational sector in a country whose majority is predominantly young may turn out to be the last straw.
It’s not just the middle classes who are far from pleased with the way things have turned out under the current order. From suicidal farmers to agitating Dalits, and protesting students and journalists to distressed minorities, every section of society is up in the arms. Even Supreme Court judges have taken to streets to vent their frustration over the disturbing state of affairs of the nation, including in the judiciary after the BJP’s successful bid to infiltrate it with its divisive mindset and chosen few.
The massive Dalit uprising on April 2 that the BJP tried to sabotage was unprecedented in many ways, exposing the reality of Hindutva’s Dalit outreach and ‘social engineering.’ It was the strongest rejection of the elaborate charade the Parivar has presided over in the name of ‘rising India’ portraying itself as a champion of the community oppressed for thousands of years. The Dalits, long used as the cannon fodder in attacks targeting the Muslims, cannot wait to teach the saffron party a lesson.
The mood of the nation is far from sanguine. But you do not get that impression if you were to tune in to ‘Mann ki Baat’, the monthly radio address to the nation, which talks about everything under the sun — including how to beat the exam stress! – except the pressing issues and concerns facing the country.
Writing in The Wire, veteran journalist Harish Khare views the Dalit uprising was a rejection of the “New India” and its cultivated social prejudices. “The Dalits are not alone in feeling left behind. The bandh (strike) simply confirmed the rumors that buyers’ regret has long set in among vast segments of the Indian electorate. The promises and probabilities of 2014 have given way to a feeling of disappointment and disenchantment, a sense of being taken for a ride.”
“The hardcore of the Modi constituency have been given every reason to infer that the strongman who so extravagantly promised stability and social harmony has failed to provide either. At the end of his fourth year in office, most segments of Indian society have a reason to be unhappy, angry and emotionally exhausted; we stand depleted of all our collective nobility and goodness. If the gathering disappointment has acquired an angry edge it is because everyone is wisening up to the squalidness of the ‘New India’.”
Khare points out that if the middle classes are today alarmed at the specter of disorder and anarchy lurking around the corner, they know that it was them who cheered as the BJP endorsed and even legitimized the use of violence in pursuit of a partisan political agenda.
Remember the ‘guard of honor’ Modi’s Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma offered to the killer of Mohammed Akhlaq, the first victim of the cow brigade? It’s because of this willful blindness of those at the top that such blatant crimes against Muslims and Dalits have not just continued, they have acquired a life of their own. Indeed, as things turn from bad to worse on all fronts, expect more religious riots — as witnessed last week in Bengal, Bihar and UP — and other such stunts. As India hurls itself towards 2019, the only option before the BJP is to do what it does best — stir the communal cauldron more vigorously than ever before.
Aijaz Zaka Syed is an award winning journalist and editor. Email: [email protected]