The ‘holy’ terrorists and the camouflage of ‘development’

Practically, there are two different sets of laws in India now –one for the minorities, the other for saffron-clad Hindu supremacists. But you can pretend we’re still a democracy

(Left) Dharma Sansad in progress at Haridwar; (right) PM Modi in Varanasi
(Left) Dharma Sansad in progress at Haridwar; (right) PM Modi in Varanasi

Ranjona Banerji

A corollary to Narendra Modi prancing around Uttar Pradesh like a temple priest so that the RSS and Hindu majoritarian forces can win the assembly elections in that state again is the religious “conference” held by Hindu priests and other such dignitaries in Haridwar between December 17 to 19.

Modi talked about how for “every Aurangzeb there is a Shivaji” while the Hindu priests did not even bother to couch their hatred for Muslims in elliptic references and what are called “dog-whistles”. Instead, they just discussed how and with what weaponry they could kill all India’s Muslims. One such “holy” person said he wanted to kill India’s former prime minister Manmohan Singh.

We have no name for such people in India. We call them saints, holy men and “leaders”. What they actually are is far simpler: they are terrorists, they are instigators, they are provocateurs. They keep the fires of hatred against Muslims and other religious minorities burning through their congregations, whether around temples or other organisations.

They are proudly Hindu so there is no point even mentioning the political ideology of “Hindutva” here. They are not all part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS which controls the BJP but they are closely affiliated in their final solution: to set up a Hindu majoritarian state.

Modi, Prime Minister of India, is a product of the RSS. “Yogi” Adityanath, Chief Minister of UP, belongs to another set of Hindu supremacists. They may appear to squabble over power but their end goal is the same. What they call a “Hindu Rashtra”.

In order to keep the rest of India, still desperately hoping that the BJP is about “governance”, Modi has spent the last weeks inaugurating various “development” projects most of which have developed as far as a standard government issue “foundation stone”. There was a time when foundation stones were the subject of satire and mockery. Now our commentariat is suitably awed and impressed by the sheer weight and heft of the promise of a concrete block.

The Haridwar conference took place in Uttarakhand which also goes to the polls next year, but although Modi did visit and handed the state a few awesome concrete blocks, the main focus of the BJP has been on Uttar Pradesh. Because that is where it feels it can manipulate Hindu sentiments the best.

If the past seven years of Modi and BJP rule have taught us anything it is that the promise of governance and development was a might bluff. People fell for it once. But Modi’s massive victory in 2019, was that only a “second chance”? Or was it in fact a marshalling of Hindu sentiments to ensure the unspoken oath of a making India into a Hindu majoritarian state?

Even without the Covid-19 pandemic, India was tottering on development and human development indices. The economy was shattered by the double whammy of Modi’s grand demonetisation scheme and his government’s disastrous implementation of GST.

China has stepped past our doorstep and is now inside. The world is no longer as welcoming nor as impressed with Modi’s personally monogrammed suits and costume changes. The neighbourhood has shunned us thanks to our bullying behaviour. The segue to Hindu supremacy was a foregone conclusion. Except of course for our expert commentariat which still lives in some fantasy land of Modi lollipop trees and Modi candy flyovers.

Thus, we reach this “Dharm Sansad”, this “religious parliament”. Where calls for genocide of Muslims are ignored by the BJP in power both at the Centre and in Uttarakhand. This is India where an educator was jailed for calling the late CDS Bipin Rawat a “war criminal”. Where a comedian was jailed for a joke which a gang of thugs said he might make. Where a journalist is still in jail for trying to cover a gangrape in UP.

The three examples, well, they’re all Muslim. There are different laws for them. And those dressed in orange, these priests and religious leaders? Obviously, they’re all Hindu. Above the law.

After a day of social media outrage, the Uttarakhand police filed a First Information Report against a Muslim who had recently “converted” to Hinduism and a few unnamed people. The new Hindu had not organised this conference. The organiser is Yati Narshinghanand, famous for his hate speech and despicable remarks. He was not named.

You can hide away in your homes. You can pretend we’re still a democracy. It will not change the reality that right now, the Hindu supremacists are winning. Because you are hiding.

(Ranjona Banerji is an independent commentator. Views expressed are personal)

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