Perfecting the art of praising both the Mahatma and his killer

For seven years voices within BJP have been telling us that ‘dissent’ is integral to democracy, but anyone who actually dissents is charged with sedition, jailed without bail or vilified in public

Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@ndtv
Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@ndtv

Ranjona Banerji

The light has gone from our lives, said Jawaharlal Nehru after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, 1948. The frail 78-year-old Gandhi was shot as he came out of a prayer meeting, by Nathuram Godse, a believer in Hindutva, in militancy and in Hindu supremacy. Gandhi’s last words were “Hey Ram”, an invocation to the Hindu god he believed in.

I write this on January 30, 2021, on “Martyrs day”. Since 1948 and now, Gandhi and Nehru have been idolised and vilified. Nehru who died in 1964 is still blamed by the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and by the Bharatiya Janata Party. Gandhi has been dissected, taken apart, abused, admired, and lately, appropriated by the very ideology which proudly killed him.

This ideology is extremely sensitive to any criticism which comes its way and sedition charges are more frequently used against Indians by the Indian authorities than by imperialist Britain against its Indian subjects. But the same standards cannot be applied to them. Because they have perfected the double game.

They will both valorise Godse the murderer and pay lip service to Gandhi. We know it is because there is almost nothing brave nor ideal about the basic tenets of the Sangh Parivar and Hindutva. And we also know that they have no “heroes” than can be easily exploited for electoral gain. An ideology based on hatred has darker “heroes”.

Instead, we discover that we are victims of a devious thought process perfected by the Hindutva movement. The two-month street protests by India’s farmers, against three farm laws hastily pushed through Parliament, has grown in intensity since the events on Republic Day, when their peaceful rally was disrupted, and anti-social elements sent to wreak havoc in their midst. The anger of the farmers has only increased. Nine sets of talks with the Modi government have failed. Largely because the government pretended to talk, offering nothing. The farmers’ representatives refused to fall for such tactics.

Some sections of the government and their supporters continue to assert that they respect and admire farmers and then blame Rahul Gandhi for the agitation. Others abuse the farmers for being obstinate. Others applaud the farm laws for being magical if only the farmers were not misled. At the base end of the Hindutva spectrum, Sikh farmers are called terrorists, Khalistanis, anti-national, other farmers are similarly abused. And the official agencies continue with police violence and legal action.

Thus, this one ideology, based solely on Hindu majoritarianism, has used as many seemingly contradictory methods as possible to attack these protesting farmers from every possible direction. The Prime Minister himself, much feted by his many admirers for his oratory and communication skills, has not managed to communicate anything directly to India’s farmers. He has kept himself aloof, in keeping with new persona centred around facial hair.

This mirrors what we’ve been told for six years by voices in the BJP, including the prime minister’s, that “dissent” is integral to democracy, but anyone who actually dissents is either charged with sedition, jailed without bail or vilified in public. All our checks and balances especially the judicial process appears to have fallen in with this BJP line of thought.

As with Muslims for the past six years, with Dalits, with women, with dissenters, the current target – farmers and specifically Sikh farmers – are now being subjected to the same multi-pronged assault. Where apparent support is nothing but another form of attack.

Right now, regardless of the violence unleased on them by various police forces, despite the sustained abuse from a BJP propagandist media, despite the BJP’s confusing messages, the farmers have only grown stronger and more adamant that their demands are met.

Like Mahatma Gandhi, India’s farmers have remained steadfast, firm and peaceful despite the enormous provocation. This government, part of the ideology that assassinated Gandhi, is not likely to give in. This is not their method. They know no grace and as it seems clear, they have no respect for wisdom either.

Their end game is total domination and by any means. The rules of politics as we knew them once no longer apply. Even the British empire with its might and its chicanery finally reached its end. Much now hinges on India’s farmers, their inner belief and their core strength. The future of our Republic, our Constitution created by the hard work and sacrifices of our founding fathers is in peril.

Will there be light in our lives again?

(Views expressed are personal)

Click here to join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines