Modi and Secularism; an oxymoron perhaps?

secularism 2

BJP, the rightists ruling India, have questions to answer. Their poll pitches awed the Indian voter. Their focus on economy, jobs and development infused confidence among voters. Nevertheless, the naysayers were loud, quick to draw parallels between Moditva and Hindutva thus prophesizing a rightwards shift in the national socio-economic strata. Modi’s campaign focused more on the economy than on such religiously divisive issues prompting changes in the BJP’s top brass and its slow estrangement with its ideological mentor, RSS and the Sangh. But after recent incidents, one might be compelled to say that the jury’s still out on Modi and secularism.

It all began with the murder of a Muslim youth in Pune by a right-wing organization. It set off alarm bells in the minds of pseudo-secularists. However one such incident may be regarding as an isolated incident. The government moved forward ignoring this slight hiccup and let the law of the land take its course. This was followed by some controversial remarks regarding Muslims by the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat in Bhavnagar. He wouldn’t have been so outspoken under a pseudo-secular or for that matter a secular regime.

Perhaps the most important indicator of secularism being a tiny blip on the BJP’s radar was its coining of the term ‘Love-Jihad’. The term’s invention was attributed to BJP MP and campaigner for the by-polls in Uttar Pradesh (UP) Yogi Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj. Love-Jihad was used to describe Hindu brides who were duped by Muslim grooms on the false pretext of love thereby facilitating their conversion. This was the vilest form of blasphemy. It was based on some isolated incidences and was thus disowned by the top brass soon enough (remember Rajnath Singh expressing no knowledge of the meaning of such a term). The BJP used this term widely in the UP by-polls citing earlier success of religiously divisive statements in the Lok Sabha polls in the state. However, the BJP fought the Lok Sabha polls more on the development plank and they had the Modi agenda to fall back on.

Undoubtedly, the Love-Jihad scheme failed miserably with BJP losing out on most seats that it held before the elections. The results were not a judgment on the central government’s performance as state elections are mostly fought on local issues. The BJP failed miserable as it reverted to its old anti-Muslim stance instead of banking on its reliable development and anti-inflation program. The voter gave the party a much-needed reality check. The BJP must realize sooner rather than later that secularism is the need of the hour and pitting religions against each other must become a thing of the past. The people have understood this. When shall Modi hammer this message home?

Love-Jihad wasn’t the only blot on the BJP’s 100 days. It was followed by Muslims being banned from a garba (folk-dance) venue in Madhya Pradesh. Love-Jihad was again cited as the reason with the party failing to grasp the fact that there is unity in diversity and festivities such as Navratri must not be a religiously restrictive affair. It is shameful that the government lets such leaders of the hook with a slap on the wrist. Lo and behold, we still have Uma Bharti left! Thanks to her wisdom, we are finally close to eradicating floods and god’s wrath on man, like the current one in Kashmir or the previous one in Uttarakhand. Apparently, the Uttarakhand disaster was not only due to rampant deforestation but also due to a much more sinister reason. It was because of unchecked excretion by atheists on river banks. Well this sure posts a challenge for Modi who once said that we must build toilets before temples. While Bharti’s logic and statements aren’t blasphemous, they depict intolerance towards a person’s religious beliefs.

Such incidences, in the early days of an already doubtful government on the secularism front, speak volumes about what’s to come. But what has been striking is Modi’s silence on such issues. His silence only makes his critics grow strong and blame him for condoning the actions of his party-men. Yes, he did talk about Muslims and their patriotism and the delusions of Al-Qaeda about garnering Muslim followers in India in a CNN interview but charity begins at home. To silence his critics, he must ensure that such activities do not take place and the RSS and Sangh take a back seat.

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