A few days back, an elderly Muslim friend told me that Muslims had been betrayed and back-stabbed. They were paying the price for deciding to stay back in India when they had the option to choose Pakistan. I won’t generalise that such a feeling is shared by all Muslims but a large section does feel so, especially the older generation that was either born before Partition or grew up listening to the horror stories of Partition. This generation lived in liberal India, with all its infirmities and aberrations. There were riots like the ones in Bhagalpur and Maliyana and massacres like those in Hashimpura and Nellie but these events never threatened the very existence of Muslims as a community. They did not feel so helpless— their trauma was localised and not universal— as they do today. What has changed in the last four years? The obvious answer is the establishment of a “new-normal” called the Narendra Modi regime.
Many of us believed that the Congress was so corrupt and listless that any alternative to it would be better. Many believed Modi to be a messiah, the man the country had been waiting for, for centuries. He was thought to be the answer to all the ills of the great civilisation named India. Many were enamoured of his Gujarat model and smooth talking. But we forgot that Modi is simply a “product” of a factory named the RSS. Hindutva is its “brand,” history is its “complex”, hate is its “weapon” and annihilation is its “final judgment”. Modi is only a puppet, who is tasked to seek revenge from the past, rebuild the future by bringing back the glory of the “pure” and “unpolluted” Vedic Age, which did not bear the brunt of the civilisational curse called foreign invasions — one in which there was no Sakas, Huns or Kushans, there was no Mongols and Persians, there was no trace of Muslims and Christians and there was no church and mosque. Everything was peaceful and serene, pure and divine.
Post-2014 India is in a search for the pure and divine. Modi is not engaged in mundane things, he is busy with history. “History” about which Baba Saheb Ambedkar had sad: “A Hindu’s life has been a life of continuous defeat..It is a mode of survival of which every right-minded Hindu who is not afraid to own up to the truth will feel ashamed.” V D Savarkar, in his search for the reason for this great “shame”, concludes, “These new Islamic enemies only aspired to crush the Hindu political power and establish in its place Muslim sovereignty over whole of India but they also had the seething in their brain another fierce religious ambition: To destroy the Hindu religion which was the life blood of the nation”. M S Golwalkar concurred that “Muslims right from Delhi to Rampur and Lucknow are busy hatching a dangerous plot, piling up arms and mobilising their men and probably biding their time to strike from within when Pakistan decides upon an armed conflict with our country.”
Savarkar in his wisdom also inferred that Hindu as a nation had to face a civilisational catastrophe because of what he called their “perverted virtue”. In his opinion, Hindus were brave but kind, courageous but compassionate, intelligent but tolerant. He rubbished kindness, compassion and tolerance as signs of weakness; if the Hindu had been cruel, ruthless, bloodthirsty, cunning and violent, India, as a civilisation, would have never faced a downfall. Muslims, according to him, ruled over India for a thousand years because they did not suffer from the disease called “perverted virtue”. So to assume that the Modi government, which is a RSS government, will be lenient to Muslims is naive. The question then is: When faced with such a regime and ideology, how should liberals counter it?
Harsh Mander’s melancholy is understandable, the emotion of my Muslim friends is valid and the anger of liberals is justified. However, exceptional times demand exceptional remedies. The RSS is working on a strategy to create the bogey of Islam as a dangerous enemy that’s out to annihilate the Hindus. It propagates that Islam’s followers are united and militant and Hindus can only fight them if they are united. Whenever Muslims are seen in hordes in public rallies with skull caps and burkas, it becomes easy for Hindutva zealots to polarise communities along religious lines. Arvind Kejriwal was fighting a good election in Varanasi in 2014 but he lost by a big margin. One reason was the “visible” participation of Muslims in large numbers in a roadshow two days before the polling in Madanpura.
I can cite another example from my own political experience. A few months before the Delhi assembly elections, riots were engineered in Trilokpuri and Bawana. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) decided not to make any overt movement like giving public statements and getting pictures clicked with the victims. Volunteers and leaders worked with the communities on the ground silently, both Hindus and Muslims were taken into confidence and the Hindutva elements could not find any excuse to paint the AAP as a party for Muslims only. The AAP won both the constituencies. The party openly condemned Jama Masjid Imam’s fatwa in favour of the AAP, something no other party has ever done. We won in areas where he is known to have some hold. So Ramachandra Guha is right. His argument cannot be stretched too far. Non exhibition of religious symbols should not be taken as an argument to suppress the identity of the minority community; it’s a strategy to counter the enemy. The choice is with us, the liberals: Do we want our enemy to win or lose? The country and the minorities cannot afford their victory. Let’s not get emotional, let’s be strategic, let’s fight to win, not to lose.