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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 24 New Delhi June 1, 2019

Why Modi is Invincible and Disastrous

Saturday 1 June 2019

by Sukumaran C.V.

But the problem is no longer merely a moral or an ethical one. It is a practical and urgent problem of today, for the world is in a hopeless muddle, and some way out must be found....If we are to find a way out of this crisis of the spirit and realise what are the true spiritual values to-day, we shall have to face the issues frankly and boldly and not take refuge under the dogmas... —Jawaharlal Nehru (An Autobiography)

The exit polls predict a second term for the NDA under the stewardship of Modi. I am writing this article before the election results are out. But I think the NDA with a comfortable majority will rule the country for the next five years too. By the time this article is published, Narendra Modi will be all set to be the PM of India again, I presume.

I am not a Modi fan. But the fact is that in today’s India, there is no political party or leader that/who can oust the Modi-led NDA in the electoral arena. That is the biggest threat Indian secular democracy faces. Secular democracy in our country has been completely sidelined for the last five years and it will be eroded further in the coming five years. To accuse Modi and the NDA rule of destroying secular democracy will not help us to strengthen it. We have to introspect and find out who really let our secular democracy down—the Hindutva forces for which secularism is anathema or the so-called secular parties including the Congress and Left?

As the Srikrishna Commission Report observes, “Originally confined to the forward caste, Hindutva has recently gained currency and fashionableness and its appeal cuts across economic strata and linguistic divisions. Issues like reversal of the Shah Bano decision... and the alleged appeasement of Muslims have increasingly helped the acceptance of Hindutva among the Hindus.”

The systematic dismantling of Indian secularism started from the passing of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, which was adopted only to appease the Muslim fundamentalist elements. In the Shah Bano case, the Supreme Court invoked Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which applies to every Indian citizen without considering their caste or religious identity. To sabotage the secular ruling of the SC in the Shah Bano case, in which Shah Bano won the right to alimony from her husband, the Rajiv Gandhi Government, with its absolute majority in Parliament, casting an eye on the Muslim vote-bank, passed the 1986 Act and started overtly jeopardising secularism. The Congress Govern-ment under Rajiv Gandhi inflicted another heavy blow on the secular fabric of the nation in 1989 by banning Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, again to appease the intolerant Muslim elements in order to secure the minority vote- bank without realising that the intolerant elements don’t reflect the interests of millions of ordinary Muslims.

Vote-bank politics started to shatter Indian secularism from the very beginning of the Babri Masjid issue (in independent India) in 1949, when idols of Rama and Sita were installed inside the mosque at night. In December 1949, the Akhil Bharatiya Ramayana Mahasabha organised a nine-day non-stop recitation of the Ramacharitamanas outside the mosque. At the end of this event, in the night of December 22, the idols were stealthily brought and installed inside the mosque. Jawaharlal Nehru asked the then Chief Minister of UP, Govind Vallabh Pant, and the Home Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, to remove the idols. They in turn asked the Faizabad District Magistrate, K.K. Nayar, to see to it. K.K. Nayar virtually refused to remove the idols. He wrote to a provincial official that removing the idols was “fraught with the gravest danger to public peace”. Nehru said in a telegram to Govind Ballabh Pant on December 26, 1949: “I am disturbed at the developments at Ayodhya. Earnestly hope you will personally interest yourself in this matter. Dangerous example being set there which will have bad consequences.” [Anatomy of a Confrontation: Ayodhya and the Rise of Communal Politics in India, S. Gopal (ed.)]

That is all. Ultimately, Nehru’s secularism failed to remove the idols. And on December 6, 1992, Narasimha Rao’s Congress Government looked the other way when the mosque was vandalised.

In Kerala a Muslim majority area was carved into a separate district called Malappuram when EMS was the Chief Minister as a reward for the Muslim League being a partner in the Left Democratic Front!

Indian secularism has been made into an orphan by the secular parties; and the Hindutva forces are kicking and thrashing and lynching the orphan in the streets of India. If the orphan is still breathing, it is because of the strength of our Constitution made by the real secular democrats who sacrificed everything for the well-being of the nation.

If the BJP stands as indomitable in the Indian political landscape today, the credit goes to the so-called secular parties that used/use secularism just as a plank to garner minority votes to cling on to power. It is not Narendra Modi who shattered Indian secularism. Indian secularism has already been repeatedly shattered by the Indian secular parties including the Left. The people were fed up with the Congress variety of secularism and Narendra Modi—with his fine rhetoric, energetic body language and powerful oration that mesmerises the general public—has cleverly utilised the disillusionment of the public and the wider public have given him a red-carpet welcome while we, the secularists, keep criticising Mr Modi.

Narendra Modi will continue to be invincible till the people of India subscribe to secular democratic values. None of the present-day secular parties is qualified to make the people or polity truly secular and to defeat Narendra Modi. Mr Modi is really invincible at least for the time being.

In this age of Climate Change and Global Warming, the environmental cost of an NDA-II Government under an invincible Modi will be more than disastrous. See what the Environ-mental conservationist, Prerna Singh Bindra, says in her book, The Vanishing: India’s Wildlife Crisis: “In May 2014, India ushered in the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA Government with a thumping majority. While the earlier UPA Government had been steadily weakening the safeguards for India’s environment, forests and wildlife, the NDA carried forward this agenda in an even more aggressive and systematic manner. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) shed its fig leaf of a protection agenda, and positioned itself as a Ministry tasked with the government’s mission of ‘ease of doing businesses’, and in a series of measures diluted and dissolved regulatory regimes. Rules, regulations, policies and laws that protect wildlife and forests are being diluted to accommodate industry, infrastructure, and what is deemed as ‘development’. As part of its achievements, the government was to highlight in May 2015, the high number of clearances given by the National Board for Wildlife...Many of the projects cleared were in crucial wildlife areas, including within national parks, tiger reserves and elephant corridors.”

The author, a former JNU student now working as a senior clerk in the Kerala State Government service, can be contacted at Iscvsuku[at]gmail.com

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