Prime Minister, Narendra Modi of India is soon to embark on another tour, this time to Down Under and several countries in the vicinity including Fiji. After much publicised tours of Japan and the United States, the tour of Australia will be another attempt by his supporters to restructure his image as a no nonsense diplomat who means business, and one who is ready to bury his past for the sake of the future. But the past still continues to haunt him. And his case is not helped by a new wave of Indian version of Islamophobia, which has engulfed the nation since his rise as the head of BJP government.
If Narendra Modi’s rise on the Indian national political scene in the last General Elections was dramatic, his tenure as Prime Minister since then has been no less dramatic. There is little doubt that Modi is a man of words as well as actions. This is another matter that his words and actions have many a time proved to bring disaster. Modi won the elections on the basis of Corporate and Communal agenda. In one of my articles just after the elections I had commented that he will work on his communal agenda in the first three years and will revert to the communal agenda in the next two years. Subsequent events have indicated that the division was in fact to be horizontal, not vertical, with the top brass of BJP and the Cabinet working on the Corporate Agenda and the provincial and district level cadres implementing the communal agenda.
India too is going Western in terms of spreading Islamophobia. In particular, the Hindutva lobbies in the country feel that without uniting Hindus behind them, they cannot monopolise the country. They are convinced that only an Islamophobic campaign can produce the desired results. India is therefore being given a daily dose of poison. Hindutva Brigade seems to have gone amok. It appears that they are in a hurry, considering the fact that BJP is in power, and they feel that it is right time to take their agenda of hatred to hilt. It is also likely that their campaign has received a thrust because Hindus are facing the worst internal crisis of the last century in the form of Sai-Shankarachraya confrontation. It is also understandable that they are concerned about the decrease in the population of Hindu females on account of ever increasing female infanticide. What is however deplorable is that they are trying to use Islamophobia as the pivot of all their efforts. And they are on the warpath against Muslims even despite the fact that Muslims are neutral on all the issues they have been highlighting in recent months.
Till now, it appeared that the central government is concentrating on the developmental issues, and the communal statements from regional leaders may be apart of their strategy to corner Modi. But with the continuing silence of the Prime Minister, it signals ominous times ahead. The statement by Menaka Gandhi was particularly dangerous, as in one go, she had put a question mark on the very survival of the meat industry and the patriotism of the Muslim community. Linking the meat industry to terrorism was too clever a move to have been masterminded by her alone. Sakshi Maharaj’s comments linking terrorism to Madrasas were an additional hint to the strategy of linking terrorism to Muslims, particularly the community of meat businessmen. They forget that terrorism in India is a massive problem, and the major portion of Indian terrorism has nothing to do with Muslims. As I have detailed in some of my articles, out of more than 40000 deaths in terrorist attacks in last twenty years, the alleged killings by “Muslim terrorists” do not number more than 1500. Terrorism in India is primarily a Hindu problem with Naxalites, Maoists, Sikhs and Ulfa activists being among the major culprits. Elsewhere in the subcontinent, Tamil terrorism in Sri Lanka killed more than one hundred thousands. Linking Madrasas to terrorism is another exampling of blaming and throttling Muslims for what are primarily Hindu problems. Madrasas are certainly giving bigger lessons of peace than any other educational institutions of the country. Even Prime Minster Modi, in his interview with Farid Zakariyah, admitted that “Indian Muslims lie for this country and die for this country”. The question by Zakariyah telling that “despite Muslims being 170 million in the country, they have not joined the international groups like al-Qaedah” was a reminder to the nation that linking terrorism to Indian Muslims, Islam or Madrasas would have no takers.
Another example of the domestic Islamophobia is what they call “Love Jihad”. They seem to argue that “love jihad” is part of international conspiracy to reduce the size of Hindu population. The truth on the other hand is that Muslims cannot support such an adventure because it will harm them more than Hindus. If four hundred thousands of Muslim boys have married Hindu girls, for example, as claimed, it means that four hundred thousands of Muslim girls have been denied married life. Further, Hindu girls would obviously marry good Muslim boys; if well educated Muslim boys marry Hindu girls, who will marry educated Muslim girls?
The biggest propaganda tool in the hands of the forces spreading Islamophobia in India is the issue of “forced conversion”. If the media reports and the statements emanating from the Saffron Brigade are believed, it would appear that the conversion in India is a one way affair, with Hindus converting to Islam. Whatever the reasons of the conversion, the picture which is presented for public consumption is of a large-scale conspiracy, most likely a part of the global effort, aimed at converting Hindus to Islam so that the demography of the country tilts in favour of Muslims. The fact that even if any conversion to Islam is taking place in the country, it is not only very low in magnitude but is also voluntary in most cases is conveniently forgotten. What however is not being debated at all in the mainstream media is that if any forced conversion is taking place in India, it is the conversion of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism. In most cases, such conversions take place under compulsion or as a result of lucrative offers. To make it look technically correct considering the fact that Hinduism does not permit conversion, the term “Re-conversion” is used. The way things are looking, Re-conversion can soon become a national campaign.
There are two views in the country on the role of Prime Minister Modi behind this ominous rise in Islamophobia. There are
a few who think that Modi would not tolerate this, and certain lobbies of Hindutva are promoting this only because they do not want Modi to become too big to control. The larger section believes that this has the backing of Modi. They argue that without Modi’s support BJP leaders could not have embarked upon such a flagrant communal polarisation.
Recent bye-elections and the Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana have however sounded an alarm to the Hindutva lobby. During bye-elections, the communal agenda was in full swing but this did not help BJP, which lost majority of seats. BJP did not stir the communal agenda in the latest Assembly elections, and this time they have won in both the states. BJP might have learned its lesson. Communal Agenda cannot keep any political party in power for long. In the long run, India will continue to be ruled by Secular politics. Hopefully, Modi has understood it better than others. If he really wants to fulfil his ambition of rising as a leader of international repute, he will have to prove that a lot of water has flown down the Ganga since the Gujarat Riots. Hopefully, the power game, which is a much stronger engine than anything else, would change him for the better.