Where Is India Heading?

Firoze Hirjikaka

We are witnessing a seminal moment in our nation’s history that transcends politics and indeed, challenges our constitutional right to freedom of choice.  Consider this progression.

Beef Up Vegetarianism

Several BJP ruled states impose a total ban on the consumption of beef for all its citizens, irrespective of their religion or customs.  Emboldened by his party’s thumping victory in Uttar Pradesh, Narendra Modi brazenly appoints a firebrand Hindutva icon as the state’s Chief Minister – finally dispelling the myth of India being a secular country; and exhibiting total disdain for the sensibilities of the 20% of the population that is not Hindu.

The UP CM promptly orders the closure of most abattoirs in the state.  He tries to cloak it in legality by pronouncing that certified abattoirs are exempt from this draconian measure – fully aware that more than 90% of abattoirs are unauthorized. His action is replicated by the remaining BJP states, which in effect, means most of the country.

On a recent television program, one of India’s most eminent and independent legal minds, Fali Nariman, was brave (or foolhardy) enough to state his opinion that the design of the BJP government was to lead the country down the path to country-wide vegetarianism.

Holy Cow!

Not to be outdone, the Gujarat state government scored a world first by redefining the status of a human being. They passed a law equating cow slaughter with homicide.  This is not only regressive, it is revolutionary. It is also an absurd piece of legislation that even a banana republic would find cringe-worthy. Hindus may revere the cow – and they are entitled to – but even they cannot credit it with a modicum of intelligence. And then to equate a dumb animal with the most intelligent species on the planet is downright preposterous. To add to the lunacy, Chief Ministers – supposedly responsible gentlemen – are glibly pontificating about not only life imprisonment for “cow killers”, but hanging them from the nearest lamp post.

Honestly, is this the Wild West? In the 21st Century, hanging is considered a Barbaric practice that has been abandoned by most of the civilized nations. Even countries that have the death penalty on their statutes exercise that power with abundant caution and responsibility. What sort of impression are we creating in the international community when our leaders throw out such wild statements without a thought to their wider implications? One can understand Hindutva diehards setting themselves up as defenders of the faith; and eager to prove their loyalty to the king, but when this blatant display of intolerance towards other faiths and cultures receives the official sanction of the state, something is fundamentally rotten in the state of Denmark.

Romeo Save Me

Meanwhile, Yogi Adityanath was just getting started. He followed up his meat boycott by granting official sanction for so-called anti-Romeo squads, ostensibly meant to prevent girls from harassment, but actually a justification for moral policing of the most puritanical kind. Goes against our glorious Indian culture, you see. Boys and girls talking to each other in public – chee chee.

Taking their cue from their political masters – as often happens – a group of cops “upheld the dignity of womanhood” whom they found consorting with a young man they believed to be of a different religion, by shaving the girl’s head. Pretty soon, adopting the monkey see monkey attitude that seems to be prevalent, other BJP ruled states formed their own ‘Romeo’ squads. The ruling dispensation seems to be suffering from a split personality. Does it want the country to hurtle forward and take its place among the world’s progressive nations – as the leader has so often asserted – or regress to the Victorian era?

Hindu Rashtra : A Dream Unfulfilled?

So what accounts for this sudden and overwhelming surge towards Hindu pride? The answer can be found in one man – Narendra Modi. To be fair, Modi has never tried to hide his strong affiliation to the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), or his inclination to further the RSS philosophy. Even 15 years after the Godhra riots, his “model state” Gujarat remains strictly segregated between Hindus and Muslims, particularly in the housing sector; and the state government has made no effort towards reconciliation.

Up to now, however, the PM has been cautious in taking concrete steps towards that end. After all, his sweeping victory in the 2014 election was based partly on his soaring oratory, but largely on his plank of development. His “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas” is probably one of the most brilliant political slogans ever conceived. The Indian public lapped it up. However, the catch was that he became trapped in his declared platform; and that inhibited him from realizing his dream of Hindustan for the Hindus.

The defeats in Delhi and Bihar gave him further pause. After the UP whitewash, all misgivings were laid to rest. Modi is now confident that his power for the next seven years, at least, is assured; and he has no real competition. It is a measure of his self- confidence that he took the political gamble of not fielding a single Muslim candidate in a state which has a sizable Muslim population. It paid off handsomely. Modi has demonstrated that in spite of constituting 20% of India’s population, Muslims no longer have the clout to influence the nation’s political future; and it is no longer necessary or politically expedient to take them seriously.

Political pundits are speculating that these steps towards encouraging a resurgence of Hindutva ambition is aimed at consolidating the majority Hindu vote bank in forthcoming elections. However, I believe it goes deeper than that. It is even more than a backlash against a perceived policy of Muslim appeasement followed by previous governments. I believe Modi has tapped into a long dormant and simmering angst among Hindus that they have been passive for too long and it is time they reclaimed “their” country.

There is a certain historical logic to this belief. For almost a thousand years, Indian Hindus have been dominated by Muslim conquerors. (I do not count the British because they treated Hindus and Muslims with equal contempt.) In their mind, it is high time India reverted to the Hindustan of old.

So where is India heading? Will the secularists be able to reclaim the India we knew, in a distant future when the BJP has lost its ascendancy? I fear that the Rubicon has been crossed. And secularism is an ideal that was never fully realized anyway; and is presently under siege all over the world. Even the world’s most advanced democracy is witnessing a xenophobic surge, where the sons-of-the-soil are asserting their claim to a country they regard as their entitled domain. No, this is the new India; and the minorities will have to get used to it.

Firoze Hirjikaka is a retired civil engineer and a freelance writer.  E-mail: leonardo8_99@yahoo.com

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7 thoughts on “Where Is India Heading?

  1. “Where Is India Heading?” – that statement might have got me worried 3-4 years ago but not any more. If the man next to you goes into self-destructive mode, there is only so much that you can do to pull him back. Beyond that you’ll have to let things take their own course. Some lessons are learnt the hard way. You can only hope it’s not too late by the time the folly is realised.

    Like Spirit sang in Dr Sandonicus – “…its nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong…”

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  2. There are many who think democracy is rule by majority and if 80% want to stop ‘Gohattya’, the 20% minority should meekly obey. ‘Unfortunately we have a defective constitution which supports ‘ Gohattya bandi’. Such defective constitution coupled with an absolute majority in the central and in some state legislative bodies gives aboost to mob mentality . Such mobs then take law in their hands and carry out extra-legal punishments, including executions. With our lax law enforcement apparatus such lawless mobs remain unpunished and unrestrained.
    1 We need to amend our constitution to make it really secular and to make our law enforcing agencies immune to political influence.
    2 We should change our electoral system to proportioal representation, so that political parties get seats in legislative bodies only in proportion to their vote share. That will prevent political parties with only 40% vote share from getting 80% seat share in the legislative bodies.

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  3. The simple one-line answer to this is:
    India is heading in the direction of Pakistan.

    That is what blind hatred does, you become like the very people you detest!

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  4. Mr. Hirjikaka has voiced the real alarm among a large section of the population, minorities and Hindus
    alike. Not all Hindus are vegetarian, Hindi-speaking or Hindutva-oriented. Our country is noted for its diversity, not only of faith but of food, clothing and language.The Modi government has done much to get the Indian economy and administration and moving, to reduce corruption and focus on long-neglected
    issues. Unfortunately, it derives its support from a largely obscurantist,narrow-minded group rooted in a
    glorious past of their own imagining. The administration no longer seems to reflect the linguistic, religious and geographic diversity of our country. There is every reason to feel alarmed.

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  5. I.S.M. has its ears to the ground AND recd a sample of peoples reaction AND believe these are not any ordinary but a Globe traveller Sandy Sk who writes in Facebook
    > Heavily lopsided…> A Muslim child asks his mother, “Ammi, what is Secularism?”
    Mother dressed in her Burkha says, “Well son, Secularism is a system where the Hindu tax payers work hard every day so that we can get all our benefits like free housing, free healthcare, free education in our Madarassas, Temple Hundi collections to build our mosques, community centres, Haj subsidy and so on. This is SECULARISM”.
    “But Ammi don’t the Hindu tax payers get angry about that?”
    “Sure they do. That’s why we call them COMMUNAL l”.
    Never more simply explained.

    [Better to come out of the Ivory tower since the Swatantra Party that was once upon a time the main Opposition in the Parliament is only in Mumbai, thanks to people like Raju & some other devoted. I.S.M. has belief in the well-meaning educated but the same needs to reach locality even today]

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  6. Are you serious Mr. Hirjikaka? Apart from the usual Modi bashing, you are propounding the view that the needs and wishes of 20% non-Hindus should take priority and precedence over the wishes of 80% Hindus. Have you read the definition of the word – “Democracy”? It means the free will of the majority (I repeat – MAJORITY) of the people.

    I challenge you to specify one instant where any decision of the current Govt of India is constitutionally illegal. The fact is that illegal and immoral activities are being curtailed, and that includes the unholy income of paid journalists. Is that what is paining you Mr Hirjikaka? A fall in income and stature that you enjoyed in the older, morally corrupt regimes of the past?

    People like you are around us and they write similar stuff to what you have written, What amazes me is that a eminent forum like Freedom First has published it. The values of FF have always been Freedom with Responsibility, Ethics and Principles. All the latter three are missing from your article.

    Sadly, its people like you who give rise to indecent words that describe main stream journalists these days and after reading your article, I have to acknowledge that these do correctly define you.

    Jai Hind

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    • In the first place, I am not a journalist, nor do I get paid for my articles. The definition of a true democracy is indeed the will of the majority, but it also enjoins on the majority the responsibility of looking after the interests of the minorities and not treat them like second class citizens. It always amuses me that to Modi supporters, any criticism of their icon is immediately interpreted as Modi-bashing. In fact, I greatly admire the Prime Minister and what he is trying to achieve for the country. I believe that if he stuck to his development plank; and his genuine desire to transform India into an economic superpower, he would have the wholehearted support of the entire nation.  What I object to is his tacit condoning – even though it is not unconditional support – to Hindu fundamentalists who seek to impose their religious customs and ideology on everyone else. In all mature democracies, there is a separation of church and state; and the state has no business to interfere in matters of religion. India still has long way to go to achieve that ambition; and I doubt if we will ever get there. What is most disheartening about recent events is that it seeks to take away every citizens’ freedom of choice. In a democracy, the state has no right to dictate what any citizen – irrespective of his faith – can eat or read, nor does it have the right to impose its perceived morality on others. Secularism may have become a dirty word nowadays, but is the glue that has kept our diverse nation together for the past 70 years.

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