The Chariot of Communalism

VHP leader Parvin Togadia’s statement in Rajkote has drawn flak from various political quarters. But his own party and the RSS have not censured him, nor has Narendra Modi, in whose state he made these remarks. Togadia has made an appeal to Hindus not to allow Muslims to buy property in Hindu areas. He has actually asked Hindus to deter Muslims from doing so. The Election Commission of India has taken note of the statement, but nothing seems to have come out of it.

Similarly, in Bihar two FIRs have been registered against a BJP leader contesting elections. Giriraj Singh has said that all those opposing Narendra Modi should go to Pakistan. Implicitly, Modi’s opponents, be it the Congress, the Communists, the BSP, or others, have no place in India. In Singh’s thinking, opposing Modi means being Pakistani – Pakistan being not only India’s arch enemy but also the arch evil plaguing this part of the world. So Modi’s opponents have been identified with evil.

Earlier, Amit Shah, Modi’s right-hand man, asked Hindu voters in riot-torn Muzafarnagar and Shamli districts of western Uttar Pradesh to take revenge by voting for the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. Shah, Singh and Togadia are some of the most prominent leaders of the sangh parivar closely associated with NaMo’s rise. And they are supported by thousands of others spewing virulence to match. It is not surprising then that a sizeable section of India’s political class has labeled Modi’s drive for power as fascist.

Even the Maharashtra strongman, Sharad Pawar, was compelled to say that “someone” was “dreaming to become the Hitler of India.” And veteran Congress leader P Chidambaram simply called Modi’s leadership as fascism. Kapil Sibal too has said that the BJP had fielded a large number of candidates who, over the decades, had earned notoriety in anti-Muslim riots, and presently an overwhelming number of such individuals were active on the ground.

This suggests one stark reality: that the Idea of India is changing. That India itself is going through a great political and ideological transformation albeit in a democratized manner. Values of old that have been brought under severe strain include “secularism” and the idea of unity in diversity.

The most prominent and nefarious factor in Modi’s rise is a patently anti-Muslim ideology which has been accepted by the vast Hindu middle-class and the powerful institutions of the Indian state. The Amit Shahs, The Girirajs and the Togadias are merely the reflection.

Since Narendra Modi’s sole qualification is his 2002 record in Gujarat, it is now immaterial whether or not he becomes the Prime Minister. Because he has already been accepted by the middle class, the media, and the institutions. His candidature only reflects the fact that the ideological foundations of the Indian state, which had been undergoing transformation, have been decisively altered. And in this mega change of heart, the Muslim has been not only been openly identified as the “Other,” but also the one whose destruction and vilification can pave the way to power.

Many commentators say that once in office, the BJP-RSS combine cannot unleash its communal machinery as in Gujarat. It is not farfetched to think that BJP-RSS policies may not differ much from those of earlier governments. But the unfortunate fact is that the Indian state and its major institutions of power have already been influenced by the RSS, and the rising middle class has embraced Hindutva as its ideology of identity and progress. A vast and populous country like India may not easily succumb to fascist, unitarian and racist outlooks, but at the end of the day such hopes could turn out to be only wishful thinking.

What Pravin Togadia has said is not an appeal but a fact that has already been put into practice in Gujarat and elsewhere. Dispossessing Muslims is the main RSS objective in communal riots. One should not blame Amit Shah, Giriraj or Togadia because this is the communal diet they have been fed on for decades. A group level worker knows what his organization will do when in power. Though Narendra Modi has gone into damage control by saying that he would approach all sections of the Indian society, the chariot of communal frenzy is a real threat to Indian society, and to Muslims in particular who have been kept outside the power structure, and for long. The communal chariot of the RSS, if not halted in time, will destroy the very idea on which the nation-state of India is based.