Saturday, June 13, 2015

Is Modi failing to deliver on his promises?


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi claims to be a devout Hindu who likes to visit Hindu temples wherever he visits. In spite of his short visit to Bangladesh, thus, he did not miss visiting the Dhakeshwari Mandir and Ramkrishna Math in Dhaka.

I have no problem about anyone’s religion and devotion to it. I have, however, serious problem when religion is exploited to hype up communal tension, and harassment and persecution of a group.

Modi's BJP and its parental group RSS have been portrayed by many political analysts as politically divisive and religiously polarizing, if not fascist, organizations that want to rewrite India's history to suit their Hindutvadi agenda. Modi, of course, denies such accusations.  When a 30-member delegation of Muslim clergy and professionals as part of his outreach program met him a few days ago, he said that he should not be judged by what his opponents have been saying about him but by his actions and performances.

The unfortunate reality in India, however, is just a few days earlier, on May 25, a newly constructed mosque was destroyed by a group of Hindus. The sad incident happened in Atali in the state of Haryana. Armed Hindus torched the mosque and set fire to Muslim homes, terrorizing hundreds of residents. The Muslim victims have since been camping at the Ballabgarh police station. They are afraid to return to their homes. 

According to the Indian Express, at the police station, everyone has an ordeal to narrate and cell phone photographs to share. “All our money has been looted. The school books have been burnt. Our clothes are gone, our cars torched. We have nothing left. How can we go back?” asked Fakhruddin Haji who had a transport business.

“We kept calling police, but they didn’t come. They still haven’t arrested the accused and they are asking us to return home. How can we? We refuse to leave the police station until we are sure we will be safe,” Ishaq Lambardar said. His house was directly opposite the mosque and, at the time of the attack, men had gathered there for the evening prayers. 

Religious symbols matter a lot. Muslims and Christians pray in mosques and churches, respectively. So, by attacking such religious symbols, the Hindu fanatics are sending a clear message to the aggrieved parties that unless they embrace Hinduism, they cannot expect safety and security in India.

As the diplomats in India and Bangladesh were chalking out the last minute details of Modi's first state visit to Bangladesh, and before the Muslim victims of Atali could return to their homes, Hindu fanatics in Rajgir in the state of Bihar destroyed an Eidgah (where the local Muslims pray) and desecrated Muslim graves nearby on Thursday, June 4 – just two days before Modi’s visit. Apparently, they were upset that local authorities did not allow hosting a Hindu festival (Malyamas Mela) on a Muslim ground, showing theater shows, which would generally be “obscene” in nature, but profitable.

The Eidgah is amid the background of a temple at Brahma Kund — hot water pond attracting tourists from all over the country. The local police imposed prohibitory orders to prevent people from assembling at the site. The Hindu protesters, mostly local traders, accused the administration of Muslim appeasement, saying their business would be affected if the government prevents them from using the Muslim ground.

Rajgir has only some 60 Muslim households, who stayed away from Thursday’s clash. When asked by the reporter of the Indian Express, a government official said that the reason for shopkeepers’ anger is the ban on dirty shows. "It is a group of mela contractors who may have provoked the protesters,” said the official.

Well, such incidents of attack on Muslim lives and properties are not new in India, but seem to be getting a new life in Modi’s India. And that is why it is difficult to take Prime Minister Modi seriously.

One may recall how the historic Babri Mosque was demolished by Hindu fanatics, mostly affiliated with Modi’s own party, in 1992. A 2009 report, authored by Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan, blamed 68 people for the demolition of the mosque – mostly leaders from the BJP and a few bureaucrats. Among those named in the report were Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the former BJP prime minister, and LK Advani, the party's then (2009) leader in the Parliament. Kalyan Singh, then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (he was accused of posting bureaucrats and police officers who would stay silent during the mosque's demolition in Ayodhya) and Murli Manohar Joshi, former Education Minister in NDA Government, were also found culpable. In a 2005 book former Intelligence Bureau (IB) Joint Director Maloy Krishna Dhar claimed that Babri Masjid demolition was planned ten months in advance by top leaders of RSS, BJP and VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and raised questions over the way the then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao of Congress had handled the issue.  

The destruction of mosques in India by Hindu fanatics seems to follow all too familiar tactics starting with a false claim that the targeted mosque was on a disputed territory. Likewise, Hindutvadis falsely claimed that the great Mughal Emperor Babar had demolished a Hindu temple and turned it into a mosque which was to bear his name. In this regard, it is worth sharing Babar’s will to his son, Humayun, where he instructed, “Son, this Nation Hindustan has different Religions. Thank Allah for giving us this Kingdom. We should remove all the differences from our heart and do justice to each community according to its customs. Avoid cow-slaughter to win over the hearts of the people of this land and to incorporate the people in the matters of administration. Don’t damage the places of worship and temples, which fall in the boundaries of our rule. Evolve a method of ruling whereby all the people of the kingdom are happy with the King and the King is happy with the people.”

That is how Babar, the founder of the Mughal Dynasty, ruled and preached to his son to follow his footsteps. It is simply ludicrous to doubt his sincerity and accuse him of demolishing Hindu temple.

And yet, the fascist Hindus had no problem destroying the historic Babri mosque.  They continue to falsify history of Muslim-ruled India and spread the myth that the Muslim rulers were intolerant of the Hindu faith. So, it was not surprising that when Dr Sheldon Pollock (currently the Arvind Raghunathan Professor of South Asian Studies at the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University), who is also a foremost scholar of Sanskrit, was visiting India in February, he was asked the same question. He replied, “If Muslim rulers had forced religious conversion, this country would not have a single Hindu remaining."

But prejudice dies hard. It is even more difficult to bury it when such prejudices serve the politics of polarization and fascism. Hindu fanatics hate Tipu Sultan, also known as the Tiger of Mysore, who was a ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in the late 18th century. He was a scholar and poet, and recognized as one of the greatest South Asian rulers of all time.

Interestingly, while the Hindu Maratha rulers are the icons of Hindu nationalism or Hindutvadi fascism today, esp. to the votaries of the VHP, BJP and RSS, during the Third Anglo-Mysore War, in 1791, Parashuram Bhau ravaged Mysore and damaged the very seat of Hinduism — the Shankaracharya’s (Shrirangpatanam) temple, also known as the matha of Srinegri Shankaracharya – killing and wounding many, and plundering the monastery of all its valuable possessions.

The incumbent Shankaracharya petitioned Tipu Sultan for help. Tipu Sultan expressed his indignation and grief at the news of the raid: "People who have sinned against such a holy place are sure to suffer the consequences of their misdeeds at no distant date in this Kali age in accordance with the verse: "Hasadbhih kriyate karma rudadbhir-anubhuyate" (People do [evil] deeds smilingly but suffer the consequences crying)."

Tipu Sultan immediately ordered the Asaf of Bednur to supply the Swami with 200 rahatis (famans or silver coins) in cash and other gifts and articles. Tipu Sultan's interest in the Sringeri temple continued for many years, and he was still writing to the Swami in the 1790s CE.

In light of this and other many such events, B.A. Saletare has described Tipu Sultan as a defender of the Hindu dharma, who also patronized other temples including one at Melkote, for which he issued a Kannada decree that the Shrivaishnava invocatory verses there should be recited in the traditional form. The temple at Melkote still has gold and silver vessels with inscriptions indicating that they were presented by the Sultan. Tipu Sultan also presented four silver cups to the Lakshmikanta Temple at Kalale. In spite of all his good deeds, Hindu fascists of the Sangh Parivar love to hate Tipu Sultan.

It is worth recalling that although the BJP made the controversy surrounding the Babri Mosque a political issue in the 1980s, its seeds were sown in 1949 when some Hindu zealots installed Ram Lalla Idol in the historic Babri mosque. The rest is history. The culmination of this has been that the Allahabad High Court gave the verdict on the ownership of land on the grounds of faith of the majority Hindu community, and divided it into three parts. The judgment was a precedent of sorts as faith became the basis of judgment. The matters are pending in Supreme Court of India.

In recent months the Hindu fanatic organizations VHP and the ruling BJP have started making noises for construction of the Ram temple soon at the site where Babri Mosque once stood. The BJP members, as acknowledged by Modi himself during his meeting with Muslim community leaders, have also been ‘spreading communal hatred’, and some of his party colleagues were making ‘totally uncalled for’ provocative remarks. For instance, Yogi Adityanath of BJP said that non Hindus should not be permitted in Haridwar’s ghats. Somanth trust is barring the entry of non-Hindus into the temple. Subramniam Swami of BJP has been saying that Temple is a holy place but mosque is not a holy place.

Dr. Ram Puniyani writes for the Secular Perspectives, "There is a long trajectory of incidents related to mosque-temple-dargah. Disputes have been constructed around them systematically. In Karnataka the Baba Budan Giri dargah was claimed to be the Datta Peetham. In Hyderabad near Charminar, Bhgyalaxmi temple is gradually being extended to be dangerously close to the Charminar. In Madhya Pradesh Kamaal Maula Masjid in Dhar has been claimed to be Bhojshala. In most of these places the campaigns were launched and polarization around these was brought in leading to electoral benefit to BJP at most of the places.”

Is Modi failing to deliver the economic miracles he had promised last year? Apparently, his BJP and the Sangh parivar have found easier ways, e.g., attacks on mosques and churches, to divert the attention of electorates from such promises.


India remains a country that is very low on the index of human development and per capita calorie consumption. Instead of attempting to rewrite history, the Hindutvadi politicians may like to invest their time and energy to improve life of ordinary Indians, and let the unbiased academic historians do their job. Otherwise, Modi’s statement that he "neither believes in politics which seeks to divide people on communal lines nor will he ever speak communal language" would only sound politically correct and nothing else. And that would be an ominous sign for the so-called largest democracy!

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