Learning About Modi from Dadri
Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, 10 October, 2015
Copyright © Dr. Seshadri Kumar. All Rights Reserved.
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A Muslim man was killed in Bisada, a village near the town of Dadri, a mere 50 km from the Indian capital of Delhi, on the suspicion that he had slaughtered a cow and was consuming its meat, about 10 days ago. This incident has rocked India to the core; not merely because of the brutality of the act, but also because of what followed in its wake – the statements by prominent politicians of the ruling government of India – and what that means for the Muslim minority in India.
Specifically, it makes one wonder if the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, sees himself as a PM for all Indians or for all Indians except Muslims.
1. For several months, since the BJP government of Mr. Narendra Modi took power in the Centre and, after winning many state elections in different parts of India, in those states, there has been a strong thrust to push pet projects of the Hindu right in India. One of those projects is to outlaw the consumption of beef. This was highlighted by the Maharashtra government banning the consumption of all beef in the state in a recent law.
2. Related to this, many prominent personalities of the ruling BJP party and its allies on the Hindu right have been making provocative statements directly targeting minorities.
3. Of late, three prominent Hindu rationalists who have been fighting black magic, superstition, and the like have been killed: Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, and M.M. Kalburgi – and the murderers are suspected to belong to the Hindu right-wing outfit called the Sanatan Sanstha. The killers have not yet been arrested.
4. In this backdrop, what seems to have happened in Dadri is that a temple priest in the village of Bisada in Dadri announced (allegedly under threat) that Mr. Mohammad Akhlaque, a 52-year old Muslim resident of Bisada village, had slaughtered a cow and was consuming its meat. This announcement over a loudspeaker incited a mob of angry Hindus, who promptly proceeded to Mr. Akhlaque’s home, broke down the door, beat Mr. Akhlaque with sticks and bricks, and smashed his head with a sewing machine, killing him. Mr. Akhlaque’s son, Danish, was beaten so badly that he was fighting for his life for a week in the ICU of a hospital before finally surviving.
The main accused in the incident, i.e., those who provoked the violence, seem to be connected with the BJP. Having said this, there have been many who are trying to play a blame game, saying that the fact that this violence happened under the watch of the Samajwadi Party government that is in power in the state of Uttar Pradesh, in which Dadri is located, means that the SP is responsible; others saying that the Central Government’s consistent anti-Muslim propaganda over the past year is responsible.
Social Media Reactions
The larger story from this incident is not the murder and the hate crime itself (even though the killing itself is quite horrific in itself), but what happened after the gruesome crime. There are two aspects to this, which are inter-related – the statements (or the lack of suitable statements) by politicians themselves, and the reactions by supporters of the ruling party on social media.
I will first talk about the social media reactions. As a fairly active social media participant, I had shared many articles expressing my dismay at the handling of this horrible incident by the Union Government and by Mr. Modi.
The reaction to these posts that I shared, from Hindutva supporters and supporters of Mr. Modi, was not any sense of regret or sorrow at the plight of the poor Muslim who had been so brutally slaughtered. The reaction was one of “whatabout-ery,” examples of which are “Oh, really? What about the nun who was gang-raped by Muslims from Bangladesh? Did you speak about that?” Similar tu quoque arguments about other events where the affected were Hindus were also presented in order to question my credibility as an unbiased commentator.
But what these supporters of Mr. Modi do not realize is that I, and people like me who might criticize the government or Mr. Modi, do not matter because we are powerless. I am a nobody. I will try my best to be consistent to maintain my own credibility, but the more important question as far as Dadri is concerned is: Who cares if I am inconsistent in my arguments? Who loses if I am not consistent? Nobody. I hold no one’s destinies in my hands or in my actions.
But Mr. Modi does. What he does or does not do affects the lives of 1.25 billion Indians. So he needs to be consistent.
Therefore it is instructive to see how Mr. Modi’s party members, and Mr. Modi himself, have reacted in the aftermath of this incident, and what it says about their party’s attitude towards Muslims.
Reactions from BJP Politicians
The reactions from politicians belonging to the ruling party has been one of derision, indifference, and a total lack of empathy with the victims. Most of them appear to blame the victim and defend the perpetrators of this heinous crime. Take a look:
1. Mahesh Sharma, the Union culture minister, said the premeditated murder was just an “accident.”
2. BJP leader and MP Tarun Vijay said that Muslims should learn to “be victims and maintain silence in the face of assaults.”
3. A local ex-MLA, Nawab Singh Nagar, said that the people who lynched Mr. Akhlaque were “innocent children,” adding that eating beef was anyway wrong, thus appearing to justify the murder.
4. Local BJP leader Vichitra Tomar said that those arrested were innocent and the police should rather arrest those who committed the crime of killing a cow as that hurts Hindu sentiments.
5. BJP district President Thakur Harish Singh said that “some people got agitated,” implying that everyone was making too much of a small matter.
6. Shrichand Sharma, vice-president of BJP’s western UP unit, defended the murder, saying, “whose blood won’t boil if they see cow slaughter?” He even suggested that Akhlaque did not die of the beating but of shock because someone told him his son had died.
7. It appears that the police had taken some of the meat found in Akhlaque’s home for testing, and found it was not beef after all. Tarun Vijay, not content with his initial insensitive statements, wrote an opinion column in the Indian Express where he expressed his sadness at the fact that Akhlaque was killed on “mere suspicion,” suggesting that if he had been proven to possess beef, the killing would have been justified.
8. Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma was not done either. He clarified a few days later that he stood by his earlier statement that the murder was an accident, said that his investigation as a doctor told him, by looking at the wounds, that “there was no intention to lynch,” and further sought to exonerate the mob on the basis of their “good behaviour” by saying that there was a young woman in the house, Akhlaque’s 17-year old daughter, and no one in the mob had molested her, as though that exonerated them from the far more serious crime of lynching.
9. When Akhilesh Yadav, the UP CM, invited Akhlaque’s family to the UP capital, Lucknow, to express his sympathies, BJP MPA Sangeet Som accused the CM of pandering to “cow-slaughterers,” as if Akhlaque’s family was not feeling insulted and humiliated enough.
10. In a similar vein, well-known and infamous (for his intolerant statements about minorities) BJP MP Yogi Adityanath said yesterday that “The ones who slaughter cows are being compensated. Did they earn this money on their own?”
11. Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Sanjeev Baliyan, said that “if UP government doesn't stop cow slaughter, there can be more such (Dadri kind) violent incidents.”
12. Sadhvi Prachi, a leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an ally of the BJP from the Sangh Parivar, said on Saturday that “those who consume deserve such fate,” referring to the lynching.
There are more such statements, but this will be enough to give a flavour of the kind of intolerance being publicly preached by leaders of the BJP and its affiliated organizations.
For five days, BJP politicians and leaders, and leaders from their allies, kept up this incessant stream of hate speech, with not a single senior national-level BJP leader trying to say that this kind of talk was inappropriate; that a man did not deserve death for the suspicion of eating beef; that this kind of hate towards Muslims was inappropriate.
A Weak Attempt at Damage Control
Finallly, after a full 5 days, after nonstop national discussion in the newspapers, on TV, and in social media, the government finally seemed to have woken up to the fact that this could not be swept under the rug by simply ignoring it. The first senior minister in PM Modi’s cabinet, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, said, in a rather clinical statement, that the attack on Mr. Akhlaque was condemnable. And yet, Mr. Jaitley seemed less concerned about the demoralizing effect of the attack on the Muslim community and more concerned with the fact that the attack diverted the attention away from development of the country. No mention was made of the various disparaging statements made by various important party members (mentioned earlier).
The next day, another cabinet colleague, Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari, spoke about the incident. Mr. Gadkari was more forthright than Mr. Jaitley about the issue in general (of eating beef), saying the government should not get into the business of what people eat, even though he did not name the Dadri incident specifically. He, too, did not talk about the harsh words used by his party colleagues.
The same day, Union home minister Rajnath Singh also spoke a bit less obliquely about the Dadri incident, naming it specifically and terming it “unfortunate,” as though luck had something to do with it. He said the government would deal strongly with those who tried to “break communal harmony,” but still did not speak on the principle of the matter – that a man should not have been killed on the basis of his diet.
The following day, the Home Ministry issued an “advisory” to states, “stating that there is zero tolerance for any attempt to weaken the secular fabric of the nation and/or exploiting religious emotions or sentiments. MHA has called on the states to take strictest action as per law against such elements without any exception whatsoever,” as though this dry, pointless message would have any actual impact on the ground reality.
And then there was the Prime Minister.
The PM’s Bizarre Silence
Throughout all this, Prime Minister Modi said nothing about the incident, although he is not a man who is ever shy of facing the camera or communicating on what he wanted to communicate using social media.
For 9 days since the incident, PM Modi, in spite of the national controversy over this; in spite of the fact that it was making headlines in every newspaper every day; in spite of the fact that every TV channel was conducting talk shows every evening for hours to discuss this matter for more than a week; in spite of the fact that this incident and the government response to it had invited condemnation from most of the eminent columnists in the media, such as Swaminathan Aiyar, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Shekhar Gupta, Tunku Varadarajan, and Tavleen Singh; and had made headlines internationally (see, for example, these media reports from CNBC, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera, The New York Times, BBC, CBS, The Atlantic, AsiaNews (Italy), Dawn, The Irish Independent, The Edmonton Journal, and Salon.com) refused to break his silence over this incident. This from a PM who is known as one of the ablest communicators to be seen in the Indian political scene, and who is one of the best extempore speakers one can ever witness. In spite of daily newspaper columns (as in this example) wondering about his silence, the PM did not speak on the issue.
It was not that the PM was so busy with the affairs of the nation that he had no time to devote to this burning issue; during his long silence on the Dadri incident, he found time to send condolences to Asha Bhosle on the death of her son; later he also found time to send his wishes for a speedy recovery to Navjyot Sidhu for a health problem the BJP MP had tweeted about and which most people had not heard about.
When questioned about the PM’s silence on the issue, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari again defended the PM two days ago, saying the PM did not need to speak on the issue (more on this below). Sanjay Baliyan also said that the “PM cannot be expected to comment on every incident…how can you expect Prime Minister to speak on every murder?”
The PM Speaks!
Finally, on October 8, 2015, the PM spoke, 10 days after the lynching.
And what did he say? That Hindus and Muslims should not fight each other, they should fight poverty. (Never mind that the Muslims were not fighting anybody here – they were on the receiving end of violence from the Hindus in this incident.) He also said that “some people” were making irresponsible statements for political gain, and appealed to citizens not to take them seriously.
That’s it. Really.
Were you expecting a bit more? I sure was. This is already extremely late for a reaction. And this is all he can say? An incident in which a Muslim family has been brutalized for no fault has been reduced to a quarrel between Hindus and Muslims? What was Akhlaque’s fault? How did he “fight the Hindus instead of fighting poverty?” Why this attempt to dilute the crime of the Hindu mob and cast it as a “fight” where both sides bear equal responsibility?
And “some people” were making irresponsible statements for political gain? After 10 days, you cannot name your own ministers who have been indulging in those statements? How do the people know you are not talking about the statements made by Lalu Prasad Yadav or Akhilesh Yadav criticizing the PM and referring to those as irresponsible statements? Even if you did not want to name your MPs, MLAs, District VPs, or Ministers, at least you could have mentioned which insensitive comments? At least you could have addressed the core issue –that a man does not deserve to die for eating beef???
No, Mr. Modi, this is not enough. And it tells us a lot about you and your government.
Defending the Indefensible
For the last 12 days, I have read so many arguments from supporters of Mr. Modi and Hindutva fans, who have tried to explain why the fault is not Mr. Modi’s but someone else’s, why a speech from Mr. Modi was not required, and so on. Let me talk a little bit about these before I explain my conclusion.
A good summary of many of these arguments can be found in an outburst from Mr. Nitin Gadkari four days ago. In this he first trivializes the demand for a statement from Mr. Modi, saying, “if he speaks, you will say why he spoke, and if he does not speak, you will ask why did not speak.” Then he says:
· “Will the PM speak on every matter?” (This is an argument I have seen many use on social media.) “There is the home minister and other ministers. Did Manmohan Singh speak on all issues?”
· “These people blame Modi for everything. Weren't there riots during Congress time? That time nobody asked. Now whenever someone wearing saffron says anything, it's played three times and people try hard to connect it with BJP, RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and Modi.”
Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi claimed this was a law and order problem, implying that the person who should be blamed for all this is Akhilesh Yadav, as CM of Uttar Pradesh, the state in which Dadri is located.
One columnist in a Hindu right-wing online magazine tried to justify Mr. Modi’s silence by saying “Mob lynching and murder for any reason – not just religious intolerance – is definitely condemnable. But, does it call for a statement from the Prime Minister until the facts are fully established?”
Why the Arguments for the PM’s Silence Are Faulty
Let me consider the arguments posited in Mr. Modi’s defense:
1. The Nun Gangrape in Kolkata. Forget about what I said or did not say about the gangrape of the nun in Kolkata. What did Mr. Modi say? Let’s see, shall we? The news about the gangrape came on March 15, and Mr. Modi immediately tweeted on March 17 about the rape about his deep concern regarding the incident. But he took more than a week to respond about a horrific murder. Related to this, some have pointed out other incidents in which Hindus allegedly were at the receiving end of atrocities by Muslims and nothing was done about those incidents. If such incidents did occur, then they should be highlighted and action demanded. Every right-thinking citizen would support action against the perpetrators of such violence against any person, regardless of his or her faith. But simply because justice was not done in some cases is not a good argument to say that Mohammad Akhlaque does not deserve justice.
2. “How can you expect the PM to tweet on every murder?” or “Do you expect the PM to tweet on every matter?” This is not “every murder” or worse, “every matter.” This was a gruesome hate crime of a Muslim for a suspected action that can only be considered as deserving death if you are a Hindu fanatic. It was an event that has been occupying headlines every day since it happened and has shocked the nation’s conscience. To refer to it as “every murder” or “every matter” is to insult the memory of Mohammad Akhlaque, every Muslim, and every fair-minded non-Muslim in a most insensitive way.
3. “Weren’t there riots during Congress rule?” Mr. Gadkari, this was not a riot. This was a premeditated murder of a Muslim by an intolerant Hindu mob simply because they suspected of eating beef.
4. “The facts are not fully established.” No one is asking Mr. Modi to play detective and issue a report on who instigated the violence and who killed Akhlaque. That is not the point at all. All that was expected of him was to make a statement that the murder was wrong, and that killing anyone for those reasons was wrong. He was not asked to say that BJP members killed Mohammad Akhlaque.
5. “This is a UP government law-and-order issue.” Yes, it is. However, the BJP ministers who spoke ill of Akhlaque were not doing it at Akhilesh Yadav’s bidding, were they?
And that is the crux of the issue.
The outrage about Mr. Modi’s silence is not because BJP members are accused of inciting the violence. People are not even outraged as much because the mob may have been influenced by the BJP government’s constant rhetoric on beef-eating.
The real issue is what happened after the murder. It is what prominent BJP leaders said after the lynching, and what that says about the BJP’s mentality, and why the PM said nothing to correct them until 10 days after the event.
Why did the PM need to address the country himself, and soon?
As many in the ruling party and its supporters have asked, why should we not be satisfied with what his senior ministers have said?
Why The PM Should Have Spoken – And Very Soon
I gave the following analogy to a colleague at work: if he is entrusted with a project and a client, and he is doing a good job, his manager will not (or should not) interfere in the project – the junior person is doing a satisfactory job and the client is happy.
But if the junior engineer is making mistakes, and the manager is aware, he must immediately intervene and correct the mistakes and, more than that, assure the client that these mistakes are aberrations and not the norm.
The bigger the mistake, the higher the person who should intervene to correct the perception. For instance, when a violation as gross as Volkwagen’s tampering of emission systems happened, it became imperative for the company’s CEO to speak about it immediately.
In the Dadri case, the “junior” leaders of the BJP (who are themselves prominent politicians in their own right) had said appalling things about the incident and about Mr. Akhlaque. Someone had to step in to correct the perception – if indeed the perception created by these people about the BJP was wrong – that the BJP was a bigoted party.
In a normal scenario, if the people lower on the chain act appropriately, it would not be necessary for the PM to intervene. And even in such cases, the intervention of the PM sends a strong positive message, as President Obama’s handling of the recent Oregon shootings in the USA showed.
But in the Dadri case, appalling statements were made initially by important BJP representatives. This was followed by silence from the top leaders for 5 full days. When senior leaders started to address the real issue – which is not the attack on Akhlaque, but the subsequent insensitive and hate-filled response of important BJP representatives – it was half-hearted at best.
Jaitley seemed to regard the Dadri lynching as a mere annoyance and an impediment to development in his cold statement; Gadkari at least addressed the issue that one must be free to eat whatever he wished in India, but was unwilling to condemn the hate speeches; and the Home Minister simply called the incident unfortunate and spoke in vague generalities about wanting to preserve communal harmony.
All in all, 5 days after the gruesome incident and the intolerant speeches, when the senior ministers finally spoke, none of them acknowledged the key issue – that of the hate and bigotry expressed by their own important leaders, including members of Mr. Modi’s cabinet. So none of them had even gone halfway towards assuaging people’s concerns about this government’s view of minorities.
It is because of these circumstances that the PM, like President Obama in the case of the Oregon shootings, should have spoken immediately about the Dadri lynching. Waiting 5 days would have been 5 days too many; but better late than never. Not speaking after your senior ministers fail to address the crucial issue is even worse.
Once Modi realized his key people were not doing the right thing, it was imperative for him to speak up – if his heart was in the right place. But was it?
Given what he said when he finally did speak about it, it is hard to conclude that his heart was in it. As Portia says in The Merchant of Venice, “the quality of mercy is not strained.” It seems apparent that Mr. Modi spoke only as a belated attempt at damage control, not in a genuine outpouring of feeling – for, feeling is not contrived.
Outrage is something visceral. You do not hold it in for 10 days.
There are many indications that the PM decided to speak only as an afterthought and as a damage control exercise, once it slowly started dawning on the BJP that perceptions were beginning to hurt it. For instance, a group of Muslim leaders met Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi more than 8 days after the incident. I reproduce from the report in The Hindu on this meeting:
Top sources in the government confirmed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was behind this sudden activity on the part of not just Mr. Naqvi but also of several senior ministers who spoke out in the last couple of days.
“The incident in Dadri should have been a case of failure of law and order by the U.P. government; instead, because of the comments of Ministers like Mahesh Sharma and leaders like Sangeet Som and Sakshi Maharaj, it was entirely being blamed on the BJP,” said a top source.
“Mr. Sharma’s comments that the incident was an accident was a real blunder, and this, despite the fact that he had been pulled up by party president Amit Shah when he referred to the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s patriotism ‘despite being a Muslim’,” said a senior office-bearer of the BJP.
The fact that the deceased man’s son was in the Indian Air Force (IAF) has also added to the issue. “This kind of incident with someone who is serving in the armed forces was indigestible,” said a source in the government.
Having decided to speak, the PM could still not do it graciously. It almost seemed forced, as though teeth were being extracted, based on what he said. Everything was an oblique reference. He could not name the people in his party who spoke inappropriately; he could not even affirm that the principle was wrong – that to kill a man for eating beef was morally and legally wrong; and he miscast the lynching as a case of Hindu-Muslim violence when, in fact, the violence was entirely by Hindus on a defenceless Muslim.
The Inevitable Conclusions
At this point, anyway, it is too late. It was too late even before the PM spoke two days ago, as the long delay in any senior BJP politician at the Centre commenting on the various insensitive remarks, the lukewarm nature of their remarks when they finally spoke, and the lack of urgency in the PM to say anything about the incident had already convinced most people that this PM did not care enough about what had happened in Dadri. But any doubts people had were dispelled by the words the PM spoke.
The PM has clearly demonstrated with his lack of action, his delayed acknowledgment of the incident, and his absolutely bland statements about the lynching that he does not count Muslims among his favoured constituents. For him to pretend that the lynching of a Muslim man by a Hindu mob was simply a fight between Hindu and Muslim groups, that deserved the admonition not to “fight among themselves, but fight poverty” is to make a mockery of Akhlaque’s death.
What the PM must now needs to know is that it is not only Muslims that he no longer speaks for. It is the moderate Hindus as well, many of whom I personally know, who are sickened by this government’s intolerance towards Muslims since it took power.
Modi stayed silent as one member after another of his party and allied groups made insulting comments about Muslims in this past year and said nothing to criticize those making such statements. He listened quietly and said nothing when one politician said that those who do not support Modi can go to Pakistan; he said nothing when another politician said that you could vote for the BJP, who are the Ramzades, or for the rest, whom she termed Haramzades (bastards); and many more intolerable acts of speech.
But now he has looked the other way when a Hindu mob mercilessly lynched an innocent Muslim man (for those who feel like responding, I will assert once again that even killing a cow does not merit death, however much a Hindu might be upset at it – so Akhlaque is definitely innocent), and this shows a heightened level of heartlessness.
For me, personally, this is the last straw. I had voted for Mr. Modi in the 2014 elections because he had promised to be a PM for all Indians and not just Hindus; I voted for him even though I knew of his highly likely complicity in the orchestration and masterminding of the 2002 riots; but I naively believed his speeches in which he gloriously spoke of Hindus and Muslims uniting together for a prosperous India. I foolishly believed he had left his past behind, that from now on he would take the extra step in making sure Muslim citizens in India would have no reason to fear him.
But Mr. Modi has let me down, as he has let down most moderate Hindus who believed in him. Our faith in him has been sorely tested for the last year, as statements of communal hatred were being made at regular intervals with only occasional token censures from Mr. Modi; but the callousness he has displayed in this brutal murder tells me that I was a fool to believe his election promises; that a leopard never changes its spots.
But Hindu right-wingers and supporters of Mr. Modi do not need to just go with my judgement on the matter. They may consider me as a liberal (“sickular”?) whose views they can safely disregard. But that would be foolish and equivalent to the action of the proverbial ostrich who hides his head in the sand.
That Mr. Modi and the BJP have seriously lost ground because of their bigoted attitude in this matter can be seen from the opinion expressed by well-known right-wing journalist and writer, Mr. R. Jagannathan, aka “The Jaggi,” (who has consistently supported the BJP and Mr. Modi in every article of his that I have read in the last two years that I have been following him) in his piece in Firstpost on Dadri, in which he says that
The unconscionable lynching to death of Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri over rumours of alleged beef consumption is likely to haunt the BJP and the Modi government for a long time. It is not going to become a non-issue just because the home ministry has issued a statement expressing "concern" over "incidents with communal overtones" across the country, "including the recent unfortunate incident at Dadri, UP."
Asking states to show "zero tolerance" towards such incidents is obviously the right thing to do, but it simply won't do the BJP and its government's "communal" image any good. The Modi government needs to internalise two important facts of life in a media-saturated world: perceptions are reality; and once formed, perceptions are almost impossible to change in a hurry. It has to build its politics by recognising these two points as a given.
To these points, Jaggi could have added that asking Hindus and Muslims not to fight each other and fight poverty instead will also not do the Modi government’s communal image any good; however, Jaggi wrote this article before Mr. Modi’s statement on the issue and was unable to address the PM’s statement.
Although Jaggi tries to make excuses for the BJP in his article, even a BJP supporter like him is forced to admit that
This is not in any way to suggest that the BJP and the Sangh do not have people who are bigoted and deserve to be put behind bars or banned from making stupid statements of the kind put out by Sakshi Maharaj, Mahesh Sharma or Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti. Public perceptions are not formed in a vacuum - they have some basis in reality.
But what convinced me that intellectuals on the side of the BJP have, after more than 10 days, finally realized the colossal blunder that Mr. Modi and the rest of the BJP have made in betraying their hardline attitudes publicly in the wake of Dadri are Jaggi’s closing sentences:
The bottomline is simple: If the Modi government wants to change perceptions about itself, it has to show a long-term commitment to it, and also be prepared to steadily abandon its base among sections of conservative Hindus. This is a tall order, for it means the party having to give up the bird in hand for two in the bush.
Just as Rahul Gandhi is not going to earn the "communal" Hindu vote by occasionally surfacing in Kedarnath and claiming he felt "fire-like" energy at the temple there, Modi is not going to be viewed as "secular" by talking in general about "sabka saath, sabka vikas", or even by meeting groups of Muslims here and there assuming them or fair treatment. It took him 10 years to wash off the 2002 stain, and even now it is not entirely gone.
Perceptions change only over the long-term, and they require hard work and a willingness to lose what you gain from your current perceptions. Is Modi ready for the hard slog?
I have never seen Jaggi admit so much, and that he felt compelled to do is an indication of how far the pendulum has swung in terms of the perception of the BJP. The BJP has clearly overplayed its card, and now stands fully exposed.
Jaggi is right. Modi still bears the stain of the 2002 riots. Because of that, many moderates among the Hindus, myself included, had hoped that he would go out of his way to ensure that Muslims felt welcome in his vision of India. That has sadly proven not to be the case. Jaggi’s parting question could well be rhetorical, for those who have watched this administration probably know the answer – that not only does Modi seem not “ready for the hard slog,” as Jaggi puts it, but he doesn’t even seem kindly disposed to any such idea. Given what has transpired in the last 10 days, what Jaggi is hoping for is like asking for the moon.
Given that Jaggi is sympathetic to the BJP, his admission that the BJP will find abandoning its base among hardline Hindus in order to appeal to a larger constituency in India a “tall order” is as close to saying this will never happen as a BJP supporter will ever admit.
To the rest of us, there is no more guesswork. This government exists for the hardline Hindus. The question is what this means for the rest of India and, indeed, for India as a whole. The pitch about beef-eating is steadily rising, as was seen today in the violence about skinning a cow (actually requested by a Hindu because the cow died of natural causes) in Mainpuri, UP. The fact that the BJP and its politicians are continuing to give inflammatory speeches on cow slaughter even in the aftermath of Dadri suggests that there are larger forces at work in trying to capitalize on the sentiments regarding beef-eating in order to divide Indians and drive wedges of hatred between them.
This portends very dangerous days ahead for India. Nobody can say what other terrible things might happen in the name of religion in the remaining 3.5+ years of BJP rule from the 2014 mandate.
But one thing is very clear. This is not the government that the majority of Indians who are not hardline Hindus voted for. These are not the viewpoints we wanted highlighted. We voted for a government that would include every Indian in its march towards development – for a government that believed in “sabka saath, sabka vikaas” – only to learn now that was a cynical slogan. To learn that Mr. Modi was not sincere in his stated goal of bringing people of all religions together in his quest for development comes as a rude shock for those of us who believed in him and voted for him; but it is better to be hurt now than live with illusions.
The Modi government has made its choice clear. It has cast its lot with the Hindu hardline right wing. Now we must make our choices.