Indian army has had the tradition of remaining aloof from political statements and controversies and never did any service chief made statements of political nature or talked about publicly on the issues concerning foreign affairs or country’s relations with its neighbours. However, the present chief of the army seems to be an exception. He often has been making his opinion known on the subjects he is little supposed to speak about. The other day he ‘advised’ Pakistan to become a secular if it wanted to stay together with India. He was responding to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran’s statement in which he had said that Islamabad wanted a “civilised relationship” with India. “Pakistan made itself an Islamic state. If they have to stay together with India, then they have to develop as a secular state,” the Chief of Army Staff said. “We [India] are a secular state,” General Rawat said last week, after the Passing out Parade of the 135th course at the National Defence Academy (NDA). Though the response should have come from the political leadership but in the changing political scenario, army does not see it forbidden to comment on the country’s domestic and foreign matters. However the Army leadership perhaps is ignoring the fast changing scenario in otherwise secular Indian where a section of population, encouraged by some right wing politicians bent upon the changing the basic fundamentals of the country. When such voices were heard for the first time, few years back, they were termed to be that of a fringe which does not command support of the political leadership. However, of late, senior politicians have jumped into the arena making highly sensitive and controversial statements that are bound to lead to communal tensions, tearing apart the secular fabric of the country.
Right-wing extremists not only occupy seats of power here but, in fact, owe their rise to to religious extremism. They caught the imagination of the Indian voters only after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Atal Bihari Vajpayee became Prime Minister only after the BJP popularized itself on the issue of Babri Masjid demolition.
Ironically, the incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi also owes his popularity among Indian masses to yet another incident of religious extremism. But, leter, he emerged as national hero which ultimately saw him taking the control of the Prime Minister’s House in 2014. Modi scored an unprecedented landslide victory. Amit Shah, who was home minister during Gujrat riots and faced jail in yet another fake encounter case of Sohrabuddin is BJP’s national president and poster boy of “new India”.
The mass mandate to Modi and Shah is seen as authentication by the electorate to their extremism. It is perhaps for this fact that extremist groups have taken control of the streets across India. Not a single day passes without killing an innocent in one or the other corner of the country. Justifications are galore and come handy. Carrying or eating beef is the primary one. And if you are not carrying beef then you must be a child-lifter or a love-jihad activist. Killings made so easy. The religious persecution is not restricted to Muslims only. Other minority communities and Dalits too face discrimination and persecution. Since BJP’s ascendance to power in 2014, hate crimes, social boycotts and forced conversion have escalated drastically. A report released by US Commission for International Religious Freedom that monitors violation of religious freedom abroad, some months back had stunning revelations about religious persecution in India. The report had recommended the US Government to put religious freedom and human rights at the heart of all trade, aid, and diplomatic interactions with India. General Rawat has ignored all these realities that have changed the whole idea of India. Before advising other countries to go secular, India needs to re-establish itself as a secular state first. Only then the words of the army chief would carry some weight.