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Mainstream, VOL LX No 23, New Delhi, May 28, 2022

The Gospel According To Amitbhai | T J S George

Friday 27 May 2022, by T J S George



Narendra Modi is undoubtedly the most p. r. conscious Prime Minister in Indian history. Extensive use of TV channels, Twitter and Facebook has always been part of his routine. Doctored images presenting him in glamorous ways have been common. A story once appeared in the papers saying that he saved 15,000 Gujarati pilgrims stranded in Uttarakhand. Another invented story was that Modi was declared incorruptible by Wikileaks founder.

Now we have a whole new book. The title itself tells the story: "Modi@20. Dreams Meeting Delivery." If anybody missed the point, an explanatory message will make amends. It says: "Dreams are meant to be turned into reality. Modi showed this to the world."

The book is p. r. masterpiece. It contains tributes to the Prime Minister from highly credible people. Clearly no one wanted to be counted out when such an open platform was laid bare. Even P. V. Sindhu figures in the list. She is a wise girl who knows what is good for badminton.

Amit Shah’s dreams definitely met delivery. He has a gospel to spread and he loses no opportunity to spread it. He has described the Modi book as the Gita for people in politics. That is the ultimate tribute man can give man. For the wisdom that permeates every page of the Bhagavad Gita is unparalleled.

But whether Amitbhai reads the Gita with an open mind is unclear. What does he make of a verse like: "Better indeed than wisdom is meditation. Than meditation, renunciation is the fruit of action; on renunciation follows peace." Does he comprehend the implications of: "The same am I to all beings. There is none hateful to me, nor dear. Those verily who worship me with devotion, they are in me, and I also in them."

If he understood what these seemingly simple words convey, he would be a better Home Minister, indeed a better human being. But it seems he understand only what is good for him. Projecting Narendra Modi as a saviour of the country is uppermost in this list. So he said that India had no defence policy before Modi came. It was modesty that prevented him from adding that India had no foreign policy, no agriculture policy, no industrial policy, no educational/cultural policy before Modi. Our problem with hero-promoters is that they do not understand that over-promotion has the opposite effect.

Politics has contaminated our culture and traditions. The superficial has gained precedence over the substantial. The show has become more important than the substance. What we see is a wholesale change of mentality. Consider the priority put forward by Adesh Gupta, a BJP stalwart. He wants some of Delhi’s historic streets to be re-named. Tughlak Road, Akbar Road, Aurangzeb Lane, Humayun Road and Shahjehan Road must be re-named, he says. If they are renamed, will Indian history be rid of the Mughal period?

That question has a relevance that goes beyond the questioner. Chennai recently introduced revised history textbooks for classes 6 to 8. Vikram Sampath welcomed this with the statement: "Our history will be told in the way we want, finally." Should history be told the way we want it, or the way it happened? And V. Sampath is not even a politician.

This is the outcome of fringe Hindutva groups getting active. Sri Ram Sena wants a ban on loudspeakers in mosques. Such a ban would indeed be welcome because loudspeakers in mosques are as much a nuisance as loudspeakers in churches and temples. But Sri Ram Sena doesn’t seem bothered about the nuisance generated by churches and temples.

Violence over hijab spread across several districts in Karnataka, prompting a police officer to express fears over "competitive communalism" growing across the state. Such fears have given rise to citizens’ initiatives as well. An organisation called Campaign Against Hate Speech recently pointed out how "television was mainstreaming the Hindutva fringe into people’s drawing rooms every day."

Ironically some BJP thinkers are worried about this. If fringe leaders get influence in society, they say, "they can push the party to take more extreme positions, failing which the fringe could turn against the party too."

What a travesty! The fringe turning against the fringe. The reality is that religious emotions are easy to inflame. A situation where a violent religious fringe can force the non-violent sections to join them could put an end to peace in a multi-religious nation. Respecting one another is the only way for such a nation to survive. Short-sighted initiatives to force one’s way will only produce contrary results. The problem is that religiosity usually suppresses common sense.

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