IRFAN ENGINEER | Caravan Daily
THE Bharatiya Janata Party led NDA Government in the Centre will soon be completing four years in a couple of months. After independence, for the first time BJP, a rightwing party subscribing to Hindu nationalist ideology, gained absolute majority in the Lok Sabha on its own strength with 273 MPs. If we count the Speaker and the two nominated members, BJP has on its own, 276 MPs in Lok Sabha. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a coalition which is led by the BJP has 333 MPs in Lok Sabha – more than 60% – just a little short of 2/3rd majority.
This massive mandate was won on the slogan of development of all sections of society and the promise of government that would work for all sections of the society – sab ka saath; sabka vikas. There were other promises too to attract various sections of the society – bringing back black money stowed abroad back into the economy and even suggesting that all individuals’ savings accounts would be credited with INR 1.5 million; ensuring security of women by bringing down crimes against them; farmers would be paid support price 1½ times their input cost; creation of 20 million jobs every year for youth. All these promises attracted the voters.
Massive funds were infused to build charisma of the then CM of Gujarat projecting ‘Gujarat model’ and Gujarat as the most developed state. Narendra Modi already had a massive following among the Hindu nationalist cadres on one hand and massive support among big business corporations for facilitating business by distributing state largess and wooing capital in Gujarat. Big business houses felt Narendra Modi was the best bet to usher in next generation of reforms they needed for their capital and business to grow. They had declared in January 2013 during Vibrant Gujarat Summit that Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister of the state, as leader with ‘grand vision’ (TNN 2013), virtually declaring their support for Modi as Prime Minister. The aforesaid promises were to mobilise all other sections of the society.
The slogan of ‘Congress mukta Bharat’ (a call to eliminate Congress Party from India) was to make Modi unchallengeable leader monopolizing political space for creation of ‘new India’. The new India sought to be constructed is illiberal and homogenized along North Indian Hindu upper caste patriarchal cultural traditions on one hand and policies aggressively favouring big business houses in spite of growing deprivation of rural communities and farmers.
The BJP on the other hand claims that now they are ushering in fundamental changes, that is ushering in new India, viz. making India count in the world and upgrade its stature. They celebrated the upgrading of India’s rank in ease of doing business; infusing capital into public sector banks, labour reforms making it easier for major companies to retrench workers; ushering next generation ‘big ticket’ reforms by bringing GST; rechristening old welfare schemes and claiming it to be new initiative of the NDA Govt. e.g. nutritional support to pregnant women; crop insurance and life insurance for the rural poor which in fact are lucrative and captive market for the insurance companies.
Similarly the financial inclusion of the poor by opening zero balance accounts in the banks under Jan Dhan Yojana was implemented more energetically. Most of the Swachchha Bharat campaign too is not carrying out new activities. It is only doing the activities which were being done under old regime too like construction of toilets, now under new label.
Therefore the question is, is the BJP led NDA government merely continuation of earlier regimes with some differences in style and substance in governance or is there a fundamental change that is being ushered in. The Right wing and followers of Modi seem to believe that Modi’s four years of governance is a fundamental change for better while a section of left seems to opine that Modi’s regime is a fundamental change for worst, a threat to democratic institutions. Liberals are divided on the issue.
For Hindutva, the Hindu supremacist ideology followed by the BJP, the role envisioned for state is fundamentally different than the one envisioned by the founding parents, particularly Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. Dr. Ambedkar had hoped that the state which they had envisioned would fundamentally transform the feudal culture and society which was a site of gender, caste and class inequalities.
The political equality granted to all citizens of India would ensure a society wherein there would be justice – political, social and economic; and equality of status. The state was empowered with authority to reform religion (Art. 25) if it stood in the way of equality of citizens. The temple entry legislations ensured that Dalits were not excluded from access to Hindu places of worship. Legal challenges mounted to all such legislations failed and the Constitutionality of such legislations upheld by the Supreme Court.
Recently, women citizens successfully challenged unequal access for women to the sanctum sanctorum in Shani Signapur temple as well as in Haji Ali Dargah. Also, the Supreme Court struck down the Shariah practice of instant divorce by Muslim men in a single sitting by pronouncing the word ‘talaq’ thrice. Implementation of Mandal Commission Report ensured that other socially and educationally backward classes get benefit of affirmative action. Land reforms, however inadequately implemented, ensured land to the tiller and at least a section of farmers were liberated from the yoke of landlords. The sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic state was ushering in equality, though painfully slowly. The capitalist class had more than their share of pie too.
The Hindu Supremacist family better known as the Sangh Parivar, led by RSS, which the BJP too follows, on the other hand believes that the state should be adjunct to and subordinate to their notion of nation – Hindu rashtra. Hindutva, the political ideology that binds the Hindu Supremacist family, propounds that the state should facilitate enforcement of norms and terms of Hindu rashtra. The norms and rules of Hindu rashtra have already been provided in their ancient scriptures. A guru (unelected and unaccountable to people, a super authority) would arbitrate and propound what the norms of Hindu rashtra are and the rest of the society should submit to the norms so propounded.
Ideally, for the Hindu rashtra, the deliberative authority is in the supreme guru or leader who has to be unquestioningly followed. The Hindu state would merely be executive and implementing authority. They pillory democracy and secularism as western model because it envisions a state accountable to the people rather than a guru.
In a democracy, state is subservient and accountable to the people, whereas in Hindu rashtra, state is subservient to a supreme authority. The Sangh Parivar accepts the Sarsangha Chalak of RSS as such a supreme authority. Cabinet ministers and the president of BJP present themselves before the Sarsangha Chalak in Nagpur, head quarters of the RSS.
The people who would not accept this model of state are identified as enemies of Hindu rashtra, particularly the Muslims, Christians and the communists. The ‘westernised’ English reading liberals too are pilloried as those cut off from their roots. Union minister Anant Hegde recently made a statement to that effect.
It is in this light that we should see the lynch mobs going in the name of gau rakshaks or those lynching inter-religious couples or coercively converting members of minority community to Hinduism or forcibly obstructing religious activities of minorities falsely accusing them to be indulging in conversion or obstructing exhibition of a film on the grounds that it offends their sensibilities. They are all serving the cause of Hindu rashtra and delegitimizing the Ambedkarite democratic state.
The Karni Senas, khap or various caste based panchayats, section of godmen following Hindu supremacist ideology are all collectively hammering nails in the coffin of democracy although they have a long long way to go. They invoke a particular version of mythology as definitive and incontestable history as well as science. While the lynch mobs and khap panchayats are doing their jobs, the democratic state under the BJP led government is serving the cause of Hindu rashtra by its deliberate inaction or inefficacious action.
The children of Hindu rashtra are taking their commands and cues from their ideological guru – the RSS. While that is so, the BJP ruled state is doing what the Hindutva state is supposed to do – serve the cause of Hindu rashtra by letting its children do their job. The Hindu rashtra state is not supposed to uphold rule of law, it is supposed to be subservient to the Hindu nation.
When the Karni Senas, backed by direct and indirect support of the state, legitimize only one version of history which projects their caste as heroes who fought ‘the enemies bravely’ and their claims of history to be incontestable, they are not only serving the cause of Hindu rashtra, they are also serving their self interest as they seek to perpetuate their hegemony and caste based privileges, particularly over the dalits in the village and effectuate their political might in the region.
While the Ambedkarite democratic state with affirmative action for the SCs/STs; other socially and educationally backward; women and children (Art. 15 and 16); for workers, peasants and all other socio-economically poor (chapter on the directive principles of state policy), the Hindu rashtra seeks to not only perpetuate the privileges of those socially privileged in caste based hierarchies, but also strengthen the economically strong capitalist class as we have witnessed in growing inequalities according to OXFAM report.
The richest 1% Indians which owned 58% of wealth in the year 2014, now owns 73% of wealth. Life of cow becomes more important and sacred than the lives of Muslims and dalits, or addressing agricultural distress.
Rewriting history and representing mythologies as history becomes more important than addressing the problem of unemployment of youth, spending millions on celebration of Diwali in Ayodhya and constructing massive statues of Shivaji and Lord Ram have precedence over budgetary allocations for education. Financing Hindu godmen is more important than mid-day meals of children and food security of people. Imposing Uniform Civil Code and ‘nationalising minorities’ is more important than security of women.
The contest today is between the state subservient to Hindu rashtra and Ambedkarite democratic state. On whose side are you?
(Irfan Engineer is Director, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism; he is also co-editor of a recent book, Babri Masjid, 25 Years On… Views expressed here are personal.)