The dying light of freedom

 It is in Parliament we can best thwart every effort of the incoming government to move towards its nefarious ulterior agenda. ( Source: PTI )
It is in Parliament we can best thwart every effort of the incoming government to move towards its nefarious ulterior agenda. ( Source: PTI )

Darkness descends. The idea of India gutters. The light that lit our freedom struggle and so defined the nature of our nationhood is going out. We are at a moment of history that can only be compared to Lahore, March 23, 1940, when Jinnah persuaded one section of our society to accept that India was comprised of two nations because nationhood had to be founded in religious identity. Thus was conceived a Muslim Pakistan. But Gandhiji resisted India cloning that example with a Hindu India. For that, he had to pay with his life at the instance of the very forces that are today most avidly celebrating Narendra Modi’s victory.

The campaign has shown the incoming prime minister insisting that for any Hindu, India is his rightful home, thus equating India with Hindudom and reducing to sufferance those who regard India as their home but not Hinduism as their religion. My closest Muslim friend, viewing the imminent catastrophe, asks, “Was it for this that our parents decided to remain in India?”

I have reassured her that even if over a third of Indians voted for the BJP, nearly two-thirds did not. This is a low moment for us, but if Indian secularism is not a Nehruvian whim but the consequence of that secularism, that plurality, that inclusivism being woven into the warp and woof of our millennial civilisation, then this is not a moment of defeat but a moment of challenge.

We have to be on our utmost guard to spot the new government awaiting its Godhra opportunity. Godhra was to Modi what Marinus van der Lubbe’s attempt to set fire to the Reichstag was to Hitler. It gave them the occasion to ride a wave of public anguish to accomplish the deepest purpose of their political lives. We have been forewarned, therefore, we must be forearmed. This is not a moment for armchair secularism. The issue is not a philosophical or polemical one. It is a red alert to be vigilant and activist. We must convert Modi’s Reichstag moment, when it comes, into our Belchi moment. In the Congress, the Sadbhavana Sena died with its first and only chairman, Sunil Dutt.

That needs to be revived and converted into a rapid action force that reaches the spot the minute news comes in of a communal flare-up. Moreover, the sena must concert with other secular forces, irrespective of differences. India’s secular nationhood is too fundamentally important to be left hostage to other considerations.

There are two other fronts on which vigilance is called for. One is development. The so-called Gujarat model blazed the path to unashamed crony capitalism. That is why those thousands of …continued »