India: Modi Government and the Vision of Gandhi-Patel

Viewpoint by Dr Ram Puniyani

This article is the 20th in a series of joint productions of South Asian Outlook and IDN-InDepthNews, the flagship of the International Press Syndicate. The writer is a former professor of biomedical engineering and former senior medical officer affiliated with the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (now Mumbai) and meanwhile a social activist and commentator.

NEW DELHI (IDN) — As Narendra Modi completed his eight years tenure (May 30, 2022), there are claims and counterclaims about the performance of his regime. Modi acolytes are very happy that during this period India has made great leaps in all areas of development. Various leaders from Amit Shah and others have praised the achievements of the last eight years. Many others have also written to highlight the schemes for housing, vaccination, women taking the wheel (Smiriti Irani), Ujwala Gas Yojana, the Jan Dhan bank accounts etc.

While the opponents of the Government highlight that there have been massive setbacks due to demonetization, the sudden Covid lockdown led to mass migrations under adverse situations and the lockdown also revealed the inadequacy of health services. There is a record rise in unemployment, the farmer’s plight has worsened, and we see the rising prices of commodities. The rupee is falling. The claim is that there were no incidents of communal violence, but reality shows not only the increasing acts of violence peaking in the Delhi violence of 2020, but also the growing discord between two major religious communities.

While overall the spiral of violence is on the rise, there is a qualitative worsening of the same. “Communal incidents in UP had increased 47% from 133 in 2014 to 195 in 2017. According to another 2017 Huffington Post report, India was ranked fourth in the world in 2015—after Syria, Nigeria and Iraq—for the highest social hostilities involving religion.” This trend continued in the following years.

The ‘hate other’ (read Muslims and Christians) has become the new normal. The achievements are being shown in the form of the building of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, Kashi Corridor and the revival of issues like Mathura, Taj Mahal, Jama Masjid and Baba Budan Giri in Karnataka. Globally India has slipped down on different indices: democracy, freedom of religion, freedom of press, hunger and happiness to name a few. In this context, Modi’s claim that he is working in the ‘bid to build India of Gandhi and Sardar Patel’s dream’ needs serious questioning.

Sardar Patel was an ardent follower of Gandhi and told Nehru that they both have learned politics sitting at the feet of their mentor, Gandhi. One of Gandhi’s dictum was that in the making of the policies what should be paramount is to keep in mind the needs and betterment of the last man in the line. What we are witnessing is that those standing in the front rows are growing abysmally with most social resources under their belt, while those in the last lines are suffering the pangs of deprivation.

There are many aspects of the decline in freedoms, freedom of expression being one of these. Many intellectuals and activists are being incarcerated while those making Hate speeches. Yati Narsinghanand, Suresh Chavanhke and company is roaming with a big baggage of Hate, confident of the fact that they are safe and secure despite giving the call of murdering, and launching genocide against the hapless minority. The interesting part of the whole phenomenon is that a ‘social construct’ is being made where the victim community is being projected as the culprits.

The central theme of Gandhi in his marathon efforts was Hindu Muslim unity. This became a serious matter of concern in the later period of his life. Starting from their association with the Khilafat movement to his travails in Bengal, particularly Noakhali and later in Delhi this was the central direction of his commitment to build an India based on its diversity and pluralism, Hindu-Muslim unity being the core of his concern. It was this which underlined his fast unto death in Delhi where he put the unity aspect as the major demand of his.

In contrast to what he envisioned the gulf between the two communities has been made wide and deep. Though this process became prominent with Ram Temple agitation the policies during the last eight years have deepened the gulf to intolerable limits. Gandhi reprimanded the communal elements in both the communities and sought a commitment to amity and non-violence. What is happening today is a process contrary to this. Religion is mixed with the state policies, while Gandhi an ardent ‘sanatani’ (traditional) Hindu wanted to keep the state away from the dictates of religion.

“In India, for whose fashioning I have worked all my life, every man enjoys equality of status, whatever his religion is. The state is bound to be wholly secular”, and “religion is not the test of nationality but is a personal matter between man and God, and “religion is a personal affair of each individual, it must not be mixed up with politics or national affairs”. (Harijan August 31, 1947)

As far as Sardar Patel, whose name Mr Modi is invoking; was very concerned about rising ‘Hate in the society’ and this is what led him to ban the RSS in the aftermath of the murder of Gandhi. Indian Express Madras edition on February 5, 1948, reported “RSS has been declared unlawful throughout India, move for rooting out hate and violence”. Sardar wrote, “All their speeches were full of communal poison … As a final result of that poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of Gandhiji”.

Currently hate spreading is becoming worse by the day. Modi himself leads the pack by giving the dog whistles of Hate, “if there was Aurangzeb, Shivaji also emerged”. Those down below and around his ideology-politics do take it further through Dharam Sansads (religious assemblies) and social media. They enjoy a sort of impunity.

The three-day ‘Dharam Sansad’ held in Haridwar in December 2021 was just one example. In this event, the speeches peaked with a call for genocide in presence of prominent BJP leaders. To cap it all Modi kept total silence on this. It is no wonder that with such an atmosphere of insecurity among minorities; on one side the Muslim communal elements get a boost but majority of them writhe in pain and insecurity.

Gregory Stenton, the President of Genocide Watch, says that India is already in the 8th spot, in a scale of ten, of genocide. What would have been the response of Gandhi and Sardar Patel to this scenario? Just using their names as a shield cannot hide the painful realities of society. [IDN-InDepthNews — 05 June 2022]

Photo (L to R): MK Gandhi and Sardar Patel. Source: Counterview

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