Millennium Post

‘Quit India’ order for Modi critics?

The bubbling fear that was hitherto confined to ‘ivory tower intellectuals’, in the phraseology of a polished BJP ideologue, has now spilled over to the aam aadmi sphere. Giriraj Singh, leader of the party’s Bihar unit, has let out the latent intolerance and covert hatred that the saffron brigade, at least its hardline inner quarters, feels towards its detractors. Singh, unpardonably sullying the fabric of democracy, has publicly declared that critics of Narendra Modi will have no place in India; they would have to go to Pakistan to find succor. This is not only a proclamation of prejudice, it is equally a pathetic attempt to paint the many and splintered voices of dissent, against the potential problems that a Modi-led NDA government might stir up, in a homogenised colour, that of religion. It is infantile to say that all of Narendra Modi’s critics, and there are many, should be banished from the country, and of course, Singh has been rightly castigated for the comment. But even though BJP top brass has dissociated itself from this ‘irresponsible’ public statement, it cannot wish away the seething vitriol behind the top soil of sheer ludicrousness of the remark. For despite the staggering machine that the saffron camp has deployed to drive home the mantra of governance and growth, at the expense of good old constitutional ideals such as right to freedom (of religion, expression), pockets of resistance questioning Modimania have only grown. At a time when editors of mainstream English-language newspapers are outdoing each other in shooing away the (illogical?) fears of (present? future?) fascism, diluting Narendra Modi’s vision of a Hindu rashtra on steroids with the elixir of objective development, this statement not only bares the hidden fangs of a possible authoritarian regime that India could be on its way to pick, but also exposes how the fourth estate is complicit in achieving exactly that.

Irrespective of the possibility that a number of so-called interviews that Narendra Modi has given might have been ‘doctored’, what is abhorrent about this decidedly ‘offguard’ remark is that it lays bare the real face of the repressive state that could have an echo from the Emergency era. In a number of letters issued in public interest, left liberal intellectuals, artists, academicians and others have expressed their alarm at the possibility of a Hindu nationalist force at the centre of a constitutionally guaranteed secular country. Out of the several, there have writers like Salman Rushdie, who have faced the brunt of a brazenly appeasing regime in the Congress-led governments, who endured book bans and denial of permission to enter the country for their just criticism of religious fundamentalists. And despite the exoneration by Supreme Court for 2002 post-Godhra riots, Narendra Modi’s inability to apologise in public has alienated Muslims, and BJP’s reinvigorated drive to polarise votes along religious lines has further punctured the secular fabric of the nation. Tolerating, and indeed building upon, criticism is the hallmark of a robust functioning democratic republic. But from the look of it, this foundational principle seems threatened in Modi-led utopia.  
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