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PM Modi’s graveyard remark in Fatehpur is unfortunate

True, SP’s commitment to secularism can be tokenistic but the PM’s kabristan-shamshan opposition is troubling

By: Editorial | Updated: February 21, 2017 11:00 am
modi7592 True, SP’s commitment to secularism can be tokenistic but the PM’s kabristan-shamshan opposition is troubling.

Campaigning in Fatehpur on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused Uttar Pradesh’s SP government of bhedbhaav or discrimination on the basis of religion and caste, and suggested that it was the biggest problem facing the state today. If there is a kabristan (graveyard) in a village, the PM said, then it must have a shamshan ghat (cremation ground) too. If there is electricity during Ramzan, it should be there on Diwali as well; if there is electricity during Holi, it should be there on Eid too. Despite that last, sudden inversion of the if-then statement, the PM’s message was clear. It was this: By building graveyards, or by making special provisions to reach electricity to Muslim neighbourhoods on festival days, the SP government is indulging in policies of “minority appeasement”. It was also this: Policies favouring the minority are inevitably at the expense of the majority’s needs and interests. Both the PM’s choice of examples, and his message, are unfortunate. He sets up stark oppositions that reinforce communal faultlines on the ground. He employs a notion of governance and development that sees it as a brutish zero-sum game. Halfway into the campaign for UP — the staging ground for political trends and experiments that have resonated nationally — he paints the electoral contest as a dark and grimy tug of war between communities, denuded of concerns, ideas and hopes that are transcendent and shared.

It is true that governments that most loudly brandish their “secular” credentials, such as the SP regime in UP, seldom live up to their claims. True, also, that — to borrow the PM’s ill-chosen illustration — the building of graveyards or their boundaries can, for such governments, become an act of glib tokenism, a stand-in for more substantive development. But it is also true that the PM’s slogan of “sabka saath, sabka vikas” — which he reiterated in Fatehpur — can also be accused of perpetuating injustice if, in a society of deeply entrenched and historically embedded inequalities, it does not make space within itself for a specific and special outreach to minorities and the disprivileged.

The backdrop of the PM’s speech is a state where his party’s footsoldiers have been known to stoke communal insecurities, and for which the BJP’s 2017 manifesto promises “anti-Romeo” squads and teams to prevent a Kairana-like Hindu exodus — the first is an unsubtle allusion to the vicious campaign, not yet abated, waged by its cadres against “love jihad” and the latter has been proved to be a blatantly fake spectre by several independent investigations. In UP, the BJP list of candidates figures not a single Muslim. In such a context, the PM’s attempt in Fatehpur to elevate “discrimination” as an overriding theme is troubling. It neither behoves the PM nor his office.

This first appeared in print under the headline This versus That 

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  1. Shyamsunder Panchavati
    Feb 21, 2017 at 4:31 am
    The 2017 elections have a strange uniqueness about them. The height of absurdity is never reached. Each day the bar is raised, new standards set in absurd narratives. Everyone knows, congress was never known for quality in narratives. With the advent of Rahul hi, the standards have dipped in further.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Regional parties do not have national obligations, hence they believe in expediency more than dignity and purpose. It is the same with all the regional parties throughout the countries. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;For the past thirty seven years. we have known BJP as a national party, that set the high standards in election narratives. Even when it had only tow seats in the parliament, it earned respect from everyone in the country and abroad. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Now it is painful to hear the honourable prime minister of the country indulging in narratives of such low calibre that it seems competing with the regional parties in pouring expletives. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Why he is so frustrated or desperate in difficult to understand. U.P. is just another election in a state in India. Victory or defeat do not break or make BJP. For the better part of thirty years BJP has grown and built itself without the likes of Modi and Shah. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Once Modi and Shah are gone, BJP will resurrect and build itself, absolutely no doubt it. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;But while he is there, he should ensure that the office of the Indian Prime Minister is not subjected to ridicule and disrespect. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;This does not mean that I am condoning or supporting the garbage being thrown at people by other parties. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;I am just stressing that, more mature narratives are expected of the prime minister of the country.
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    1. Sushil Misra
      Feb 21, 2017 at 6:55 pm
      It is quite natural and normal for a prime minister to take note of all the comments made by important leaders - be they be of his party or some other. So it is necessary for him to express his views on some communal view aired in public by some other leader. Modi's view only shows that he is secular and shows that he gives equal importance to the majority as well as the minority community. The pseudo secularists think and try to convince others that any view expressed by any one of the minority community has to be applauded as a correct and just view - even if it is harmful for the country and its security. Modi is right in calling a spade a spade.
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      1. Sushil Misra
        Feb 21, 2017 at 7:02 pm
        Modi only expressed his view that majority and minority communities must always be treated without any discrimination. What he was reacting to was a partial atude of a so called secular party. The wrong that was being perpetrated by the psedosecularists so far was to praise everything about the minorities and abuse the majority community every time - to please its vote bank. Modi strongly feels that a spade should be called a spade and all communities should be trated fairly without any fear or favour. He is a just and a brave man.
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          shiravanthe sridhar
          Feb 21, 2017 at 12:57 pm
          For you a hard core sickular intolerant leftist media everything of bjp RSS NDA is unfortunate.
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            shiravanthe sridhar
            Feb 21, 2017 at 1:01 pm
            Stop reading the twisted news from the sickular intolerant leftist commie media ,read the w speech and decide for your self who is talking truthand who is indulging in the journalism of courage ( read deceit).
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