RSS’s unsecular disservice to NaMo
I admire Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi — forget the economic parameters of the state, you just need to go out at 1 am in the morning in Baroda to see and experience the huge number of women and men walking on the roads, free from any threat, real or imagined. That state, when you know that the chances of your being assaulted at that time are close to zero, is to my mind the epitome of security, the first dharma of governance. This sense of security has attracted carmakers like Tata and Ford to Gujarat, a feat that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is only beginning to aspire for.
So, as part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), when Kumar said that the “leader of the coalition should have secular credentials and a liberal frame of mind”, Modi followers seem to have taken it as an attack on Modi’s perceived non-secular credentials, following his abysmal and shameful mis-governance during the riots at Godhra in February 2002. I see nothing wrong with what Kumar has said. Of course, not only the leader of any political alliance that aspires to govern India, but any citizen of India must be secular. What else can s/he be — a Hindu, a Muslim, a Sikh and so on?
The RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) feels otherwise. “To keep alive the Hindutva ideology, the Hindu ‘samaaj’ (society) should come together,” RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat told reporters today. “And the country should have a prime minister who believes in that ideology or propounds that view.” Nothing could be more dangerous or more divisive for India than such an ideology. Were Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Rajiv Gandhi ‘Hindu’ prime ministers? Is Manmohan Singh a ‘Sikh’ prime minister? Thank whichever god you believe in that that is not the case — irrespective of personal faith, India is yet to see a single prime minister who is as rabid about his religion as many in Islamic nations are about theirs.
As we all know, in the path shown by Vinayak Damodar (Veer) Savarkar, for RSS, you can’t be an Indian without being a Hindu. Lace that thought with a political agenda and the foregone conclusion is the creation of a Hindu nation. “For the RSS, Indian identity is the same as Hindu identity, and all members of religious minorities — mostly Muslims and Christians — should pay allegiance to the dominant religious community, at least in the public space,” writes Ingrid Therwath, head of the International Relations department at the Delhi-based Centre de Sciences Humaines, in Cyber-Hindutva: Hindu nationalism, the diaspora and the Web, a recent report I wrote about last week.
Do Indian Hindus want India to be a Hindu state? The rising tide of angry cyber-Hindus aside, most Hindus I know are very happy and secure being secular. While the word signifies a religion-indifferent nation, angry Hindus believe secularism has meant that followers of the world’s oldest religion have lost out, that the word ‘secular’ is really pseudo-secularism, that Hindus are being victimised in “their own home”. This false notion needs to end, but like all who revel in the glory of persecution complex, this is not going to happen soon.
At another level, if it is political change that is being sought — as Bhagwat’s statement suggests — they will have to walk the arduous road towards that regressive state. It is no longer a fringe that can define or change this. Secularism is now a Constitutional provision, through the 42nd amendment in 1976. To change this, the majority in Lok Sabha must belong to those who believe in the Hindu Rashtra theory. With the grace of all gods — Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist and many more — that is not going to happen soon.
But in the interim, Bhagwat has done a terrible disservice to Modi by strengthening the impression that Modi stands for a Hindu identity, that if he becomes India’s prime minister he will push for the Hindutva notion of our nation. Modi will have to come clean on this himself. If he, as the prime ministerial candidate, walks towards a Hindu Rashtra, the alienation of BJP is destined. And unfortunately, the freedoms enjoyed by the citizens of Gujarat will not be available to the rest of us.