Independence Day is for me always a time for looking back on the year gone by. This review is more important this year as India has witnessed many dramatic changes since August 15, 2019. Sadly, not of the kind that make me proud. In my opinion when future historians examine these past 12 months they may end up defining it as India’s year of hatred. As the year in which the Prime Minister took upon himself the task of completing what the RSS calls the ‘unfinished business’ of Partition. Ironically, the leaders of Pakistan also use this expression but for them this only means seizing the former state of Jammu & Kashmir by fair means or foul.
For the RSS ‘finishing’ the business of Partition means making it clear to Muslims who did not, or could not, migrate to the Islamist republic next door that they must get used to being treated as lesser Indians. In more than one sense they have a point to what they say. Secularism became such a twisted, sick idea in the hands of Congress leaders that it became the ideology that laid down the stepping stones for Narendra Modi. A correction was needed and some of us hoped Modi would make it. What he needed to do was to make it absolutely clear that Muslims would have the same rights and abide by the same laws as other Indians. And, that they would have to live by India’s values. So, they would have to stand against jihadist ideas and jihadist preachers. This ideology is so evil that it only produces religious lunacy of the kind we saw in Bengaluru last week.
This leads to the question that nobody has asked about the violence in which we saw jihadist mobs attack police stations and burn police vehicles and public property. The violence was allegedly organised by the Socialist Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which is the political wing of the Popular Front of India (PFI). The PFI is an openly jihadist organisation that shares the world view of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The question is why in the past six years has nobody banned this outfit? Remember that it was the PFI that was responsible 10 years ago for hacking off the hand of Professor T J Joseph of Newman College in Kerala because they thought he had insulted the Prophet of Islam. His crime? A lesson he taught in which there was an alleged attempt to defile the Prophet of Islam.
The ideas and ideology of the PFI are against the values of India. It was said perverted idea of secularism that allowed this militant group to spread its wings across the country and form a political party. If Modi had taken firm action against jihadist organisations like the PFI, most Muslims would have supported him. Instead, he has chosen in these past 12 months to allow an ugly Hindutva triumphalism to taint almost everything he has done. So, the banning of triple talaq and the abrogation of Article 370 were used in election speeches by him and the Home Minister as Hindutva victories, as was the amendment to the citizenship law. Unsurprisingly, Muslims rose up in protest across India and the protests may still have continued if Covid-19 had not stopped them.
Meanwhile, Hindutva triumphalism is the mood of the moment. It is the Prime Minister’s official spokesmen who lead the charge in primetime TV debates and nobody checks them even when they shriek that Hindus who are ‘Jaichands’ should be put in the same jail cell as jihadists. In translation what this means is that anyone who does not support every action that the Modi government has taken in the past 12 months is a traitor to India. On social media those who claim to be proud supporters of Modi use much more abusive language to describe all Muslims as traitors.
It is in this atmosphere of violent hatred that the Prime Minister laid the foundation of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya on the very day that Article 370 was abrogated last year. The end result of the triumphalist manner in which Kashmir’s limited autonomy was taken away is that the Kashmir Valley continues to be on the boil. If the abrogation of Article 370 had at least made the atmosphere in the Valley peaceful enough for the Pandits to return safely to the homes they were forced to abandon, we would today see Modi’s Kashmir policy as a major achievement of the first year of his second term. This has not happened.
If the economy was booming and millions of young Indians were able to get new jobs and take the first steps towards a better life, then the year gone by may have been remembered differently. If there had been some measure of improvement in the economy, there would be some reason to celebrate the end of the first year of Modi’s second term. Covid-19 is now being blamed by Modi’s more ardent supporters for why he has been unable to lead the country towards his declared goal to make the 21st century India’s century. This is not true. The economy was in trouble long before the pandemic arrived. So, we celebrate Independence Day this year with more gloom than joy. Unless the Prime Minister makes a determined effort to change course politically and economically, the pall of gloom will get thicker and thicker.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines