There is an eerie similarity between President Donald Trump’s advice to the non-white women members of the US Congress to “go back to where they came from” and the occasional suggestions by the Hindutva apparatchiki in India to their opponents to “go to Pakistan”.
What skin colour is to the white supremacists in the US, anti-minority sentiments and suspicion about the patriotism of the liberals are to the BJP’s supporters. On both counts, the preferred destination for the presumed anti-nationals is the “moth-eaten” — in Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s phrase — putative homeland of the Indian Muslims, which the “traitorous” among the latter carved out of Akhand Bharat.
It is a sin for which the Sangh parivar hasn’t forgiven those Muslims who stayed behind. Nor has the parivar taken kindly to those liberals among the Hindus who have been guilty of appeasing the Muslims by saying that they have the first right to the country’s resources.
This feeling of the seeming indulgence of the liberals towards those who do not deserve it can be discerned in the US as well where the targets are what is known as the “people of colour”. To Trump, “these Left-wing ideologues see their nation as a force of evil”.
Political observers believe that Trump’s tirades are an attempt to mobilize his right-wing supporters in preparation for next year’s race for the White House. If the enthusiastic response to his call for sending the “unpatriotic” Congresswomen back to their original homelands is an indication, the President has correctly read the popular mood on the Right of the political spectrum.
The British magazine, The Economist, believes that Trump’s 2020 campaign will be “more racially divisive” than what it was four years ago. According to the magazine, the “data from his 2016 election” do not provide any “clear economic rationale” for his victory. The Economist asks, therefore, whether “his race-baiting (is) the main draw” or whether he is also appealing to his “supporters’ economic concerns?”
Similarly, the belief among the BJP’s opponents during the run-up to the last general election was that the party was banking on its jingoistic/nationalistic card to divert attention from the troublesome economic issues. Mercifully, since then, instead of minority-baiting being the “main draw”, there has been a partial scaling down of anti-Muslim jibes in the wake of the BJP’s latest sabka vishwas pitch, even though the lynchings continue unabated.
But no one knows how long this conciliatory posture will last considering that animus against the minorities is deep-rooted in the saffron brotherhood. What if the BJP’s opponents begin to show signs of revival? Will it return to minority-baiting to buttress its position?
As for the liberals, the BJP has shown no signs of trying to earn their vishwas. Its dislike for them is evident from the names under which they are attacked — urban Naxals, tukde-tukde gang — apart from being routinely called pro-Pakistani in the pro-BJP television channels.
A probable reason for the BJP’s ire against the liberals is that they represent a much larger number of the intelligentsia than the saffron camp which will be hard put to name an internationally acknowledged celebrity in any field, let alone a Nobel laureate. Instead, it is known for believing in the therapeutic value of cow’s urine and in the descent of Indians from rishis (sages), not monkeys, as a BJP parliamentarian said.
To overcome this disadvantage in the realm of the intellect, the saffronites have been deriding the liberals for being cut off from their Indian roots and being admirers of the Western world. It is but one step to see in their distance from an Indian and, specifically, Hindu background the possibility of being disloyal to the motherland.
For the BJP, suspicions about this propensity is enhanced by the concern which the liberals tend to express about human rights violations, especially with regard to illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and even more so, for the Rohingyas. For the BJP, these are “termites”, as Union home minister Amit Shah once said, who deserve no mercy.
Hence, the BJP’s relentless pursuit of such infiltrators who are threatening to turn India into the refugee capital of the world, as Amit Shah has said. The National Register of Citizens is one of the instruments for carrying out this search of the unwanted. The BJP is not worried about the resultant social and communal disturbances for it believes that such turmoil will help it to consolidate its Hindu vote bank.
In the US, too, a similar objective drives the official programmes against immigrants in addition to building a wall on the Mexican border to keep out future infiltrators. Such aversion to aliens prevails in Europe as well where the far-right parties make no secret of their desire to keep their countries predominantly white. As xenophobia gains ground nearly all over a “meaner, harsher, more troubled world”, as Barack Obama said, the ideals of tolerance and pluralism are pushed to a corner.