Yogi has been a rabble-rouser with considerable support within the elected representatives in BJP. He has never held his feelings back when it comes to Muslims and shouldn’t shock anyone as he only implemented the electoral promise of the BJP. Photograph: (Reuters)
The act of cleaning is a political tool to rid the body politics of unfit elements
Why is the media and civil society in horror over vice squad and closure of illegal slaughter houses? Is it not apparent cleanliness drive in India has acquired moral and ethnic halo whereby the act of cleaning becomes a political tool to rid the body politics of unfit elements? The past three years shows how secular liberal parties failed a constitutional democracy whereas BJP succeeded in making the idea of ethnicity-based democracy acceptable. It is the acceptability of no’s of the past and shifting of red lines lies the success of BJP RSS combine which received a standing ovation in Uttar Pradesh.
The idea of anti-Romeo squads is not about girls being harassed but it rests on fallen to be rescued under a new moral ambit which also protects them from predatory minority youth which always runs away with a trusting Hindu woman. Though maximum violence against couples has happened because of intercaste marriage but the popular narrative of Hindu honour against a predatory Muslim male continues to receive political nourishment. Same is the case when BJP talks about the illegal slaughter houses. The idea is not to reform the system so to create humane condition for culling but it rests on the principle that minorities are illegally culling cows and they need to be taught a lesson by the civil society itself.
The political Hindutva project rests on the theory that minorities in India are a pampered lot and need to be put into the place as they have been pampered by secular parties and given more than what they deserve. On top of it is the conviction that as medieval India was only about religion and not race and ethnicity, those of who chose to stay back after partition must be reminded of their sin on daily basis. This feeling gets further fueled by the ravages of the Islamic terrorism which further empower’s the view of we told you so.
Many would say that this view is not new and existed even during pre-colonial India. It could also be argued that sentiments around cow have been centuries old and so called secular parties instead of addressing the situation allowed the ego of the majority to be bruised because of vote bank politics. The argument around and cow might be centuries old but the building of national identity around it has been colonial and modern.
I would also say that what is also new is the intellectual reasoning by established political actors of violence perpetrated on the mentioned issues thereby collapsing the difference between the centre and fringe. What is new is the idea that the political actors involved in the violence can get away and still be acceptable in the mainstream politics. The baggage yesterday becomes a virtue today. It is this breaking of line that those who propagate the fringe view can find themselves at the centre of governance re-draws the idea of India as a constitutional democracy.
It can also be argued that the debate died when Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of the country. But here lies the subtle difference. Modi was the chief minister when violence happened right under his nose. He turned around the debate by pushing out the idea of moral responsibility and made it into a case of legal culpability. Once he survived the feeble attempt by Atal Bihari Vajpayee to remove him, Modi projected himself as the political victim pursued by a compromised liberal media whose self-interest thereby reducing critique to simple bias. But the story moved to a different level with the appointment of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
Yogi has been a rabble-rouser with considerable support within the elected representatives in BJP. He has never held his feelings back when it comes to Muslims and shouldn’t shock anyone as he only implemented the electoral promise of the BJP. But what is shocking the silent acceptance on part of the majority that the elected CM is biased against minorities and is it ok if he publically talks about it? The idea is to change the idea of India. The idea is to move silently and quietly towards ethnicity based nationalism from civic nationalism.
It is this move that non-BJP parties should be seized of. Congress and socialist have monumental blunders to their credit which range from Shah Bano verdict to open sectional politics to its inability to reform Muslim Personal Code for them to become symbols of minority pampering.
If parties like Congress want to redeem themselves in Modi-Adityanath world, they would have to creatively engage with the majority community whom they have treated with intellectual disdain by engaging them either from the caste or agrarian axis. The post-colonial India married to newer technology has reinvented Hinduism where it has become more national than regional and local. Its number has created a sense homogeneity despite caste differences. Its religious symbols have become symbols of national identity and assertion.
The Congress by late 2000 looked far removed from the heartland faith and came to be viewed as anti-Hindu. It looked disconnected with new India which was working out its own Saas Bahu series where modernity was being domesticated by the tradition and traditions were reinventing themselves in modern avatars as good ideals. It is this lack in the Congress which makes it irrelevant when it comes to the culling or vice squad debate. It looks alien and marginalised in the heartland and fails to convincingly argue against the building of national Indian identity in opposition to the minorities. This problem is coupled with the fact that Rahul Gandhi has been unable to connect with the new India and has failed miserably even as a political organiser making Opposition ineffective and bereft of a tall personality.
The debate in India in the name of development and corruption free has moved towards civilizational essence. The debate looks tempting but has the potential to wreak havoc on the delicate ethnic fault lines. The educated elite cannot forget that 18 percent of India is Muslim and any imagination of India must include them. The visceral idea that India of the future can be removed of Muslims or other minorities is very misplaced. It is to expect in next 50 years China would hand back annexed portions of JK back to us. It would simply qualify as fantasy. India needs to invest in the minorities in the right way. Whether it is education, triple talaq or personnel law, the educated elites must take progressive views. Since they abdicated their own responsibility for few votes, the issues mentioned above in reverse became sore points for the majority community. Even the idea of reforms in religious practice becomes contested which became during Sabarimala issue where many political actors dared the courts and parties to reform the minority institutions first.
So, please don’t be surprised if next time a butcher’s shop is closed because someone suspected it of selling beef. Just remember our indifference has done the job successfully by erasing the difference in the name of cleanliness. What we desired secretly has come true and we are closer to it than we have ever imagined it to be.