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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 29, July 15, 2023

Modi Regime Can Dismiss European Parliament Resolution Against Hindutva Based Divisive ideology But not Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar who Rejected it | S N Sahu

Saturday 15 July 2023, by S N Sahu


July 18, 2023

India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, in a special letter to Chief Ministers written on 9th September 1948, observed, “We must, at all costs, and with all our strength prevent any communal deterioration in any province”. “The consequence of this,” he said, “will be harmful to us in many ways”, Cautioning that “Nationally, this will impede our effort and produce complications,” he warned that “Internationally, it will not only injure our good name but may have even more serious consequences”.

EU Resolution

Those prophetic words of Nehru uttered almost a year after our independence from British rule resonated in the condemnatory motion passed by the European Parliament on continuing violence in Manipur. In a motion adopted by the EU it was flagged that “politically motivated, divisive policies promoting Hindu Raj” was a major factor behind the unabated violence in the State.

The European Parliament passed that resolution and motion when Prime Minister Modi was in France and was a Guest of Honour at the Bastille Day marking the commencement of the historic French Revolution rooted in the ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

EU MPS Visited Jammu and Kashmir

In November 2019 as many as 23 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were taken to Kashmir by the Government of India on a two-day visit to enable them to familiarise and assess the prevailing situation after J&K’s special status was scrapped by Modi regime on 5th August 2019.

So while in 2019 the Government of India tried to impress upon some of the MPs of the European Parliament about its claim of positive outcome after the scrapping of the special Status of J&K, in 2023 the European Parliament as a whole is expressing an opinion on the deteriorating situation in Manipur and indicting the divisive policies based on majoritariansim.

The Government of India took a stand that the resolution passed by the EU constituted interference on internal affairs of India. Certainly there is merit in it. A question may be asked if the Government of India’s decision to conduct a visit of the 25 Members of the European Parliament to Kashmir in 2019 constituted an open invitation to them to interfere in matters solely within the domestic arena of our country?

Turn the Searchlights Inwards

It is important to turn the search light inwards to very candidly admit our own failures to set right the problems which flow from divisive and polarising narratives. That was what Nehru did at the formative stages of our nation building when efforts were being made by Sardar Patel to unify India. Now that India has traversed a long way from that stage and celebrated Azadi Ki Amrit Mahotsav, 75th year of our independence, we are being endangered by forces and ideologies internal to India.

From time to time our leadership sensitised the whole nation that even communalism under the garb of nationalism would promote fissiparous forces threatening India’s unity and integrity. Nehru himself did it on several occasions. It is worthwhile to refer to his letter to the Chief Ministers written on May 18, 1959. He referred to communal disturbances in some parts of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh and sensitively observed : “What is very distressing is the realisation that below the surface there are these deep passions which can be roused so easily. If those fears continue, our foundations are weak. For this reason, probably there is nothing more dangerous for the future of India than a communal approach.”

Biju Patnaik’s Warnings

One of the illustrious leaders of India Biju Patnaik, while participating in the discussion on the motion of confidence moved by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the Lok Sabha on May 27, 1996, told the then prime minister that when he talked about secularism and pseudo-secularism, he got inclined more towards pseudo-secularism than secularism. Then he urged him to get rooted in secularism and shun pseudo-secularism. His words assume currency and significance for 21st century India, marked by peoples’ struggles to defend the constitution and secularism from the onslaught of Hindutva forces.
Biju Patnaik’s interventions while participating in the discussion on the motion of thanks to the president’s address in the Lok Sabha on March 3, 1997 also need to be recalled with added intensity to appreciate his understanding of constructive nationalism. He did so to counter the BJP’s divisive ideology and nationalism and it is important to underline the deeper relevance of his articulations for defeating majoritarianism and polarisation, taken forward in a calculated and aggressive manner by the current leadership in India.

This intervention came 47 days before his demise. In the Lok Sabha, he patiently heard Madhya Pradesh BJP leader Sunderlal Patwa, who asserted that the mandate for forming the government was not in favour of Prime Minister Deve Gowda but in favour of nationalism represented by the BJP, which emerged as the single largest party “after travelling a long journey since the time of Jan Sangh in 1951.”

Biju Patnaik responded sharply by stating, “You people talk of nationalism. Do you know what is nationalism? You cannot know it. His rashtrawad is breaking-up the nation into 20 pieces.”

Biju Patnaik’s response in 1997 carries relevance in contemporary India, when the so-called nationalism aggressively advocated by the BJP is in fact causing multiple faultlines and promoting irreversible trends of discord and disunity across the country. Biju Patnaik was so prescient in saying that the rashtrawad advocated by the founding leaders of the BJP would “break up the nation” into 20 pieces.

The spirit of what Biju Patnaik said in 1996 resonated in the former US President Barack Obama’s statement that if in India minorities would be ill treated and targeted in the name of their faith India would fall apart. If Obama’s statement would be dismissed by pointing fingers at him and asking him to look at what was happening in his own country how do we ignore the grim warnings of Nehru and Biju Patnaik who had stirred the conscience of our Republic by stating that any attempts to stoke communalism and make it the fulcrum of nationalism then India itself would face serious consequences.

Gandhi on Communal Unity

That was why when Mahatma Gandhi prepared the text of his publication “Constructive Programme” he placed communal unity ahead all of other eighteen points which, among others, included, economic equality, women’s empowerment, sanitation and removal of untouchability. What is, therefore, required is the eschewal of majoritarainism and Hindutva anchored nationalism. In fact B R Ambedkar in his book Pakistan and Partition of India had presciently said that Hindutva based approach advocated by Savarkar would permanently endanger the safety and security of India. Today we are confronting such a dire situation. So there is a categorical imperative to uphold the idea of India as envisioned by Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar and Biju Patnaik.

(Author: S N Sahu served as Officer on Special Duty to the President of India)

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