As you read this, India would have completed its shift to the right. The journey that began in the 1980’s with the infamous Rath Yatras, that led to the desolation of the Babri Masjid, that tore apart towns, villages, and a large metropolis, that ‘showed Muslims their place,’ after the 2002 Gujarat riots, will culminate in a huge victory for the right-wing, Hindu Nationalist, Narendra Modi, the next Prime Minister of India. It took a decade of inept, uninspiring Congress leadership, bereft of ideas, devoid of direction, and possessed with a peculiar form of indecision, to bring the person who was at the helm of affairs when Godhra, and the post-Godhra carnage occurred to power.
To his credit, he has risen from being a ‘tea-seller,’ to the Prime Minister, from his sheer hard work. He has successfully piloted his state through twelve years of reforms, industrialisation, and unprecedented economic growth and investment. His policies have benefited many, brought millions out of poverty, and have stemmed the flight of capital and talent from Gujarat, by laying the onus on the private sector to perform. His ‘less government’ approach has seen him shift to the right of economic policy. In the last twelve years, Gujarat’s GDP has more than doubled, most villages are now electrified, there was development of one of India’s busiest ports at Mundra, run by Adani, along with construction of major highways, and fly-overs in each city and most towns.
However to many, like this columnist, he is the scourge of modern-day assertive, reactive Hinduism. He is a product of the RSS, itself a by-product of the Hindu Mahasabha, that was one of the parties that actively supported Hindu revivalist tendencies in the pre-Independence era. One of the Hindu Mahasabhites was Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mr M K Gandhi, the so-called father of the Indian nation. The RSS ideology is that of a ‘Hindu Rashtra,’ where Hindutva is the backbone of the state policy. How far he goes to support the RSS endeavour is a matter of speculation, but he is a far cry from the soft-spoken statesman, that was Mr Atal Vajpayee, the last BJP Prime Minister of India, who studiously avoided stepping on sensitive toes. India has not necessarily voted for development, it has voted for Hindu revivalism. The Indian voter knows exactly what he has voted for.
Students of Indian history, would recollect that the very premise for the formation of the All-India Muslim League in 1905, was the ‘fear’ of such Hindu revivalism, that would seek to ‘re-assert itself,’ over the Muslim minority. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the founder of Aligarh Muslim University, was one of the indirect pioneers in this move, since his Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College was started with the intention of providing Muslim youth with the ‘education’ to match up to standards. Aligarh University, would form the backbone of the Pakistan movement, and a bulk of the civil servants, ministers, and officers of Pakistan would be products of the ‘Aligarh thought.’
Whether Mr Modi, the ‘Businessman Gujarati’ or Mr Modi, the ‘Sevak,’ will take precedence, is for the future to see. There are a few who hope that, like the Army in Pakistan, it is only the BJP in India, that can solve all outstanding issues with Pakistan, including Kashmir. To express that hope is in itself borne of hopelessness.
For Muslims in India, it is time to examine the past. In the 1920’s, Muslims were defeated by the end of the Khilafat movement, something which the community never forgave Mr M K Gandhi for. They searched around, leaderless, directionless, and without any hope of a saviour or guide. Communal riots wrecked the Indian countryside. It was not until the ideological marriage of Allama Sir Mohammed Iqbal, and Mr Mohammed Ali Jinnah, that came about in the late 1930’s, and especially after the 1938 Allahabad Session of the Muslim League, that the Muslims were able to find hope, and a motive. It was to lead to a bitter Partition, but averted certain civil war.
For a long time now, Indian Muslims have been kept in the dark, leaderless, aimless. Will Mr Modi’s arrival awaken them? Will the Bad Times End, now that they have begun?