Promises to keep
CECIL VICTOR. Editorial. VI.VIII.XIX
SPOTS ARE SHOWING
By Cecil Victor
It is the depth of irony that on the day that Prime Minister Narendra Modi unfurled his new slogan: “Sab ka saath; sab ka vishwas” it shared front page space with a report that a woman and two men were beaten up mercilessly by cow vigilantes in Madhya Pradesh.
It was followed the next day by a report from Gurugram that a young man was harassed for wearing a skull cap. And in a continuation of the vigilante episode in Madhya Pradesh photos appeared showing the main perpetrator sharing a frame with newly elected member of the Lok Sabha Sadhvi Pragya Thakur. She was the one that PM Narendra Modi said he would never forgive her from his heart for her Gandhi-Godse comments.
The caveat that photographs cannot be conclusive proof of acquaintenceship given the ease with which disparate images can be morphed and propagated needs to be underlined. But that the cow vigilante and the sadhvi share a common ethos cannot be denied.
The Prime Minister in his first address to the elected Members of Parliament sought to dispel the odium of “the other” that those who had opposed Modi in the elections had acquired by dint of rhetoric. It was the treatment meted out to “the other” that had gained traction during the election but the results showed that the landslide win of the BJP-led alliance could not have happened without votes from “the other”. The PM has asked his partymen to “puncture the myth of fear among minorities”. That the fear is palpable and is propagated by actions and speeches of election hopefuls and the well-organised fringe elements is what the Prime Minister is now trying to undo. Or is he?
For one, what he intends to do about sadvi Pragya Thakur is left unstated and the threat by Mrs Menaka Gandhi to those who do not vote for her has been awarded by her appointment as Pro Tem (temporary) Speaker of the Lok Sabha. Her threat to her constituents to keep non-voters outside her charmed circle appears to have had the desired result and ensured a vote out of fear of being left out.
It seems that this kind of “fear mongering” is outside the purview of the Prime Minister’s new ‘NARA’ abbreviation for National Ambition and Regional Aspiration.
Among the many different varieties of fear and discrimination that exist in our society, the caste phenomenon has just been illustrated by the suicide by a doctor in Mumbai.
The government has already had a taste of vehement reactions to its National Education Policy. It has evoked condemnation of attempts to impose Hindi on southern States. There has been a welcome rollback on the issue.
The issue of abolition of Article 370 giving special rights to the people of Kashmir also needs to be reviewed especially in the context of the concept of “Akhand Bharat”. Both China and Pakistan are in control of nearly half of the former princely State of Jammu and Kashmir. It would be more appropriate that after securing the amalgamation of the annexed territories to the rest of India, that Article 370 can be dealt with. It is necessary to remind the government that in its first tenure India has lost influence in Nepal, a predominantly Hindu nation. In much the same geopolitical logic carelessness about Kashmiri sentiments could unleash the same kind of centripetal forces that drove the Nepalis out of Indian orbit.
Building the foundations of his new NARA philosophy will require that the Prime Minister himself take the lead in ensuring that the insecurities engendered by the so-called ‘fringe elements’ of his own grassroots support are curbed. If, as the Prime Minister stated in his speech to parliamentarians, the massive mandate is an indicator of the collapse of the walls of caste and other prejudices that sustained votebank politics, it should be used to curb the fears that cow vigilantes inflict on suspected violators of the law.
More importantly, use its shakhas to teach its next generation that India is a multi-cultural nation and its diversity should be a beacon to the rest of the world. The display of intolerance towards people of other States or other religions has turned the victims to extremism as case studies of Kashmiri terrorists has shown.
The Prime Minister has made his point but events show old habits are hard to hide.
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