Herald View: The country Gandhi died for

How do we pull more strongly towards a federal setup, and expose the Sangh’s ‘akhand’ fantasies? How do we make media accountable for the lies it peddles? How do we win back free speech?

Congress workers at the party headquarters in Delhi on 4 June 2024 (photo: Vipin/NH)
Congress workers at the party headquarters in Delhi on 4 June 2024 (photo: Vipin/NH)

Herald View

Fear and hate are both powerful emotions, capable of overwhelming our rational faculties. Carl Jung told us back in the day that the human ‘collective unconscious’ is populated by ‘instinct’ and ‘archetype’.

Archetype, in Jung’s schema, is an inherited idea or mode of thought derived from the experience of the race and present in the unconscious of the individual. ‘Instincts’, Jung tells us, influence human activity whereas ‘archetypes’ affect human imagination, perception and thinking. Let us park this thought here.

In the run-up and during the just-concluded 2024 Lok Sabha election, we possibly saw equal or comparable measures of both these emotions—fear and hate. In the hate-filled campaign of Modi–Shah’s BJP and its amplified virality, courtesy the Hindutva trolls running amok on social media, it was hard to not project our worst fears. We’ve seen enough over the past decade anyway, and communal hatred is certainly no figment of our fearful imagination.

The poison of hate, we imagined, had spread so far and wide and deep into the Indian body politic that a return to sanity was inconceivable. But the Indian voter seems to have told us that we are not that far gone. Of course, the picture is grainier—it was not the mythological triumph of good over evil or love over hate; it wasn’t even a triumph. And yet there was enough in that mandate to cling to the hope that we, the people of India, still care for the country Gandhi died for.

Writing in the previous edition of National Herald (the issue dated 9 June), poet and educator Sabika Abbas wrote: ‘I must also say this is not a victory of love over hate. It is a victory of people’s issues. People did not vote against the ruling party’s Islamophobia; they voted on other matters, and it worked out. We still need to fight the hate.’ We do, Sabika. But this mandate, we’d argue, is still also a victory of love over hate; we’ll tell you why, with reference to Ayodhya, Varanasi, Rameswaram, Banaskantha, Banswara…

Let’s take heart from the fact that the BJP lost Faizabad, which includes Ayodhya. Uttam Sengupta writes in ‘Hope lies in the details’: ‘As irony would have it, a Dalit won from Faizabad. At the southern tip of the country, in Rameswaram, a district with 84 per cent Hindus, it was a Muslim who won.

'While poll strategist Prashant Kishor tried to peddle the BJP line that the Congress did better only because Muslims voted for it en bloc, it was the Hindu vote that knocked the wind out of the BJP in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Bengal. Modi’s own victory margin in Varanasi came down from 4.8 lakh votes in 2019 to about 1.5 lakh in 2024.

'This, after all the promotional blitz and boasts of a victory margin of 10 lakh-plus, after the entire Union cabinet, the Uttar Pradesh administration and home minister Amit Shah camped in Varanasi for weeks.

'At Banaskantha in Gujarat, a constituency where most people depend on dairying for their livelihood, Modi had said if the dairy farmers had two buffaloes, a Congress government would take away one and give it to a Muslim.

'At Banswara in Rajasthan, he warned voters, largely tribals, that the reservations for tribes would be diluted to benefit Muslims, if the Congress came to power. The BJP lost in both these constituencies because Hindus and tribals voted against them. The unlikely winners were Geniben Thakor in Banaskantha and Rajkumar Roat of the Bharat Adivasi Party (in Banswara)….’


So yes, we do need to fight the hate, but maybe we are not as far gone as a people as we fear. Even as we cling to that hope, even if hope is all this faith is about, there is work to be done. The relief we feel in walking back from the brink is understandable, but as Sabika says — and many others echo in the previous edition of National Herald— ‘we’ve just about saved Democracy from dying, it’s still in the ICU…’

What are the next baby steps we need to take to rejuvenate our democracy, our democratic institutions? How do we walk the path of doing something about the country we care for, something a little more participative than just casting our vote every five years? How do we, as citizens, become more public spirited? How do we convert radicalised Hindus, and make them care about the fundamental values that form the substratum of our Constitution?

How does the ‘Opposition’ resist attempts to drive a wedge between the allies? How does the judiciary reclaim its independence? How does the Congress revive itself organisationally? How do we create pressure to rewrite the citizen-phobic new laws—the Nyay Samhitas, the Citizenship Amendment Act, the amended UAPA and PMLA, and other such legal monstrosities?

How do we pull more strongly towards a federal setup, and expose the Sangh’s ‘akhand’ fantasies? How do we make media accountable for the lies it peddles? How do we win back free speech? We’ll look for some answers in days to come.

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