In a shrewd move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, indeed, played Hindutva card while ostensibly rallying the country in the fight against Coronavirus.
This is so since it was on Ram Navami day - the ninth day of the month Chaitra in the Bikrami calendar, or April 2, that he had tweeted about sharing his thoughts through a widely telecast video with the nation and its people.
The next day, or April 3, at 9 am he did so. And there was a further and unusual stress on number nine through the better part of his talk.
He exhorted people to shut out all lights of their houses on Sunday, April 5, and stand at either their doorsteps or balcony for nine minutes, beginning from 9 pm, with little lights like those of candles, earthen lamps, or torches of their mobile phones in their hands.
If this is to be seen in the backdrop of the fact that a huge gathering that was billed at Ayodhya on April 2 to commemorate Ram Navami which marks the birth of Lord Rama had to be cancelled because of Corona threat, the underscoring of nine by Modi assumes significance.
He has certainly tried to make up for the Ayodhya plan of a grand show by his party. Among others it was to be attended, or rather presided over, by the saffron robed Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Yogi had visited the temple town on March 25. This was hours after a 21-day-long lockdown began the previous midnight to avert the spread of Corona infection. Later, the idea of April 2 event to mark Ram Navami at Ayodhya had to be shelved.
Thus, through the overuse of number nine Modi in his talk on the following day has tried to give an indirect message to generally the devout and mainly the Hindutva gallery about how acutely he was aware of their missing on it; and that he was ready to let them make up for it.
Yet, while doing so he had a word of caution for them. He said, “One must never cross the Lakshman Rekha of social distancing. Social distancing should not be breached under any circumstances. This is the only panacea to break the chain of Corona virus.”
Modi went on to quote from a sacred verse. It went on like:
“Utsaho Balwaan Arya,
Na Asti Utsaah Param Balam |
Sah Utsahasaya Lokeshu,
Na Kinchit Api Durlabham ||”
According to him, this means: “There is no greater force in the world than our passion and our spirit. That there is nothing in the world that we cannot achieve on the basis of this strength.”
Through such rendering of the verse that was recited by him towards the end of the talk “our” and “we” have interestingly been used against the word ‘Arya’. This is significant since it reminds of Hitler’s racial obsession based on Aryan superiority.
American Journalist William L Shirer who covered Nuremberg trials after Hitler’s fall writes about this in his book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: “When he (Hitler) left Austria for Germany in 1913 at the age of twenty-four, he was full of burning passion for German nationalism, a hatred for democracy, Marxism and the Jews and a certainty that providence has chosen the Aryan, especially Germans, to be the master race.”
This worldview of Adolf Hitler never changed and the rest as far as Germany is history.
Thus, let us hope the best for India. More so since amid Modi’s light and sound events to shoo away COVID-19 virus palpably belittles the real steps required to combat the virus’ spread.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own