The Three Rs of India

Pakistan is said to be defined by three As: Allah, Army, and America. Their relationship with each other and with the public have influenced the nation over the years – from the disastrous secession of its Eastern wing in 1971, when American support was not forthcoming, to the American support of the Afghan Mujahideen (read Allah) in the 1980s, which brought the Army massive hauls of armaments, to its recent civil strife, where anti-Americanism is the byword for revolution.

India is not far behind.

The rise of Narendra Modi and his particular brand of Hindu nationalism has seen the arrival of the three Rs of Bharat: Ram (read RSS), Raja (read Modi) and Rupayya (read Business).

Something unheard of before occurred on the 3rd of October, 2014: National TV, the mouthpiece of the government of India, carried, live, the address of the Sarsanghchalak (President) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The organisation, founded in 1925, is a voluntary organisation claiming the membership of over 5 million Hindus, amongst whom are the former PM, Atal Behari Vajpayee, and the current PM, Narendra Modi. One of its prominent leaders, M S Golwalkar, has openly written: ‘The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and languages, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture… Or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment – not even citizens’ rights.’ The current President, Mohan Bhagwat, who delivered the address, has himself said, ‘Why are not all Indians called Hindus?’ and has also said that ‘women are meant for … the pleasure of men.’ (A tweet by Arvind Kejriwal, of the AAP, had a link to the news report)

And so, an India that claims to be ‘democratic and secular,’ has allowed space on National TV for a person who heads a thrice-banned right-wing organisation that wants to reduce non-Hindus to a ‘subservient’ status, or convert them back to Hinduism? For a nation that espoused ‘inclusive’ development, this was a great departure, coming surreally a day after India celebrated Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary.

The second R, Raja, aka Narendra Modi. In days gone by, there would barely be a mention of the Prime Minister, and most of the talking, speaking, advertising, and press releases were done by other Ministers. But now India is all about one, and only one man: Modi. Be it the Independence Day speech, the trip to Japan, the Teacher’s Day speech (a needless demonstration of authoritarianism), the Chinese Premier’s visit, or his triumphant visit to the United States, the media can scarcely talk about anything else. Together, the media was bending over backward to be more loyal than the king. Forget that J&K was ravaged by disastrous floods, and that the PM made a brief visit to Jammu, a constituency most likely to vote for the BJP. And when it became clear that elections were off the menu in the near future, the PM and his ministers decided to pay even less attention.  Forget also, that the Northeast of India has been hit by devastating floods. On TV, on radio, in the papers, and on billboards outside, it is all about Modi. India seems to care about little else. There is a precedent to this. In the years leading up to the Second World War, the leader of an initially-obscure, nationalist party would also come to be the subject of similar attention and praise: he led his Reich to glory…

The third R, Rupayya. Business. Investment. So, what did Modi get out of Japan? Answer: $32 billion. What did the Chinese PM offer? Answer: $20 billion. What did the American President offer? Answer: don’t know, can’t say. Everything that this government does seems to be hinged on one thing: money. The ‘Make-in-India’ campaign is an example. The government and the bureaucratic apparatus have suddenly been reduced to a marketing industry. The press is given figures, not specifics. Press releases are toned to represent the great achievements of the Prime Minister. The PM himself addressed a gathering of prominent business leaders in Delhi, where he rolled out the red carpet for them, even going on to address a fellow Gujarati businessman as ‘Mukeshbhai.’ The successful Mars mission, initiated by the UPA, has become another campaign point. He has mentioned the mission in almost every speech, meeting, or address since, especially cashing in on its cost-effective execution. Yes, at heart he remains a businessman, seeking out lucrative deals, to bring investment pouring in.

And its three Rs are expected to define India’s relationship with others for the next century.

As much of the world watches with amusement, not the least Islamabad with its discreet chuckles, the follies of Pakistan’s leaders – those succeeding its founders – appear less monumental.

But, on becoming a dominating, Hindu state, what right would India have, if it had any to begin with, to rule over Kashmir? And on becoming so, would India not be legitimizing Pakistan, a nation the RSS states was created by splitting Bharat Mata?

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