Millennium Post

Riot of conflicting signals

In his Anatomy of Fascism, Robert Paxton identified ‘mobilising passions’ as a defining feature of the sectarian creed. Anyone who has followed the BJP’s rise will know how it uses this method to gather support. From the demonising of Muslims during the Ramjanmabhoomi agitation to the Gujarat riots of 2002, the tactic of formenting anti-minority sentiments has been a key element of saffron politics.

It is evidently after Narendra Modi realised after the 2002 outbreak that the riots may help him win elections in Gujarat, but not elsewhere, that he turned to development as his primary objective. But, the saffron brotherhood appears to be following a different line. As much is evident from Subramanian Swamy’s call for rebuilding the Ram temple.

Considering that the matter is sub judice since the 2010 verdict of the Allahabad high court on the ‘disputed structure’ has been challenged before the Supreme Court, the BJP leader might have been expected to wait till the final judgement was available. But, his impatience is apparently driven not by deep religiosity but a desire to avail of the opportunity to rake up a divisive and sensitive issue to gather political dividends in U.P. and elsewhere.

The haste of this Hindutva gadfly is all the more strange considering that the RSS, the paterfamilias of the Sangh parivar, and the VHP, which is one of its most belligerent affiliates, have decided to freeze the issue for a year, presumably to ensure that Modi’s development plans are not upset by a revival of communal animosity. It is for the sake of a conducive atmosphere for his economic agenda that Modi has called for a 10-year moratorium on sectarian tension so that he can focus on growth.

Swamy’s provocative initiative can, therefore, appear to be somewhat odd. It is even more so since he has raised the question demolishing the Varanasi and Mathura mosques as well, the two shrines which, along with the Babri masjid in Ayodhya, have long been on the hit list of the saffron demolition squad. After the judicial intervention in Ayodhya, it was expected that the question of the two other mosques would not be raised again. But, first, the VHP’s Ashok Singhal and, now, Swamy have brought them up, thereby recalling the saffron lobby’s confrontationist position of the 1990s.

Swamy says, of course, that the destruction of these mosques will be followed by the construction of new ones at public expense. But, it isn’t so much to assuage the sentiments of Muslims that he has outlined this game plan as to arouse the ghoulish glee of the saffron storm-troopers during the demolition of the two mosques. Since riots will be the inevitable fallout of the sacrilegious acts, it is difficult to see what Modi makes of these assertions of a well-known maverick and also of the VHP supremo.

Does the prime minister intend to allow these professional trouble-makers to let off steam, knowing that no one takes them seriously? Like the temple issue, the question of the so-called ‘love jehad’ can also been seen as a fascist ploy to mobilise passions by accusing Muslim youths of enticing Hindu girls to convert to Islam before marriage.

It is undeniable that the BJP’s assumption of power has encouraged some of the party’s and the parivar’s fringe groups to step up their attempts to target the Muslims on various pretexts and create an atmosphere of tension. So far, these have remained confined to certain localities, notably in U.P. Moreover, the average people have become wiser over the years to these provocative moves and no longer become as exercised over them as in the 1990s. But, the threat of a spark somewhere leading to a conflagration cannot be ruled out.

It cannot yet be said for certain how serious is Modi’s metamorphosis from being a Hindutva hardliner to a friend of the corporate sector whose emphasis is on a stable, peaceful atmosphere where businesses can flourish. The latter would not mind if right-wing policies are tinged by antediluvian social orthodoxy and even a religious angle. They will not care, therefore, if history textbooks are rewritten to bring them in line with the saffron interpretation of the past, and the various educational and cultural organisations are packed with BJP supporters. But, breaking mosques is a different matter.

The businessmen will also be unable to accept a state of affairs where the reordering of the social and educational scene becomes a source of ill-will among communities in case the saffron version of history rejects the idea of a largely peaceful coexistence of the majority and minority groups through the centuries and sees the Hindus and Muslims forever engaged in violent strife.

The only way, therefore, for Modi’s development dreams to be achieved is for the parivar to turn away from its hallmark ultra-nationalism and acknowledge that there is no alternative to pluralism in India. Any attempt to impose the writ of the majority will set the country on the road to disaster. IPA

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