Friday, August 18, 2017

Who is the next face after Prime Minister Modi?

 India’s current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),  rose from the ranks of  the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS is a Hindu-Nationalist Rightwing organisation which spawned the BJP. However, even though the BJP draws its ideology from the RSS,  Modis  tenure as the Gujarat Chief Minister and his subsequent 2014 national election campaign gave the illusion of him being his own man. In his campaign there was no blatant mention of a Hindu agenda or the construction of a Ram Mandir which his party has worked for earlier. Modi spoke of his 56 inch chest, alluding to him being the Alpha Male. The promise was to build an India that Indians could be proud of, an India that would hark back to the ‘glory days’ of yore.

Modi led his party to a resounding victory in the 2014 national elections even though the opposition made much of the Gujarat riots during his tenure as Chief Minister. As India’s 14th Prime Minister, he hopped across the globe basking in the adulation of the Indian diaspora as his image managers built a profile of global appeal; a form of ‘Halo Effect’ on a much larger scale. During the election he portrayed himself as the THE Indian; with his foreign jaunts he gave a new face to India. The image of Modi playing the Taiko drums in Japan, bear hugging leaders of foreign lands sent a message of arrival to all at home. The RSS had been trying to create an image of a macho Hindu to deal with what they believe was its emasculation over the last hundreds of centuries caused by non-Hindus ruling this land. This need to regain their perceived lost manhood could explain their quasi martial rites and the use of violence or its threat by organisations spawned by it. Modi with his exploits brought a long absent sense of bravado and machismo, revitalising and infusing a sense of purpose into the lives of many people who felt wronged by history.  

The new found post-Modi-victory-virility has percolated to the the tone and depiction of Hindu memes and religious motifs. One of the iconic images of the monkey king Hanumanji, the much loved devotee of the Hindu god Shri Ram, has been of him tearing open his chest to show the image of Shri Ram and his consort Sitaji. However, Hanuman has gotten a makeover, he has been converted into a monkey king with a dark  sinister and hostile look that promises violence . The genteel beatific look that shone through in the countenance of Shri Ram and Laxmanji in their individual pictures or as they stood together has changed. Today they are ripped and look hard and determined, their long hair ruffled but contained.  

The creation of these images and their oozing through society goes hand in hand with the RSS and their cohorts constant desire to undo and rectify the past, to remove the black mark on, what they believe, is an otherwise unblemished history. One outcome is  patriotism morphing into rabid saffron hued nationalism. Is an environment similar to that before the ‘Kristallnacht’ being inadvertently created? 

Which brings us to the choice of  a nationalist Hindu priest - Yogi Adityanath -  as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of  Parliamentary seats (80) out of which the BJP won 71 and is also the state where the disputed Babri Masjid-Ram Janma Bhoomi (birthplace of Lord Ram)is located. The RSS and Hindu nationalists want to build a temple on that spot. Building a temple there has religio-nationalistic overtones. Its construction will, in one swipe, sanctify the birthplace of Shri Ram,  begin to undo the destruction, and the resulting psychological scars’, caused by the Muslim invaders  and simultaneously cock-a-snook at fellow citizens who are Muslims.
When Adityanath was chosen as the new Chief Minister, media houses tripped over themselves to show that he was not rabidly anti-Muslim. They wrote and broadcast stories of how Muslims work as his staff without fear. Strangely these stories never came out when this very same man spewed venom on Muslims over the last many years. 

With a Hindu priest as Chief Minister in Uttar Pradesh, the RSS has an opportunity to make real part of their fantasy. The success of their venture in this state has the potential of  galvanising other BJP led states into further action.  Modi was the image for the aspirational Indian who was given reasons to begin shedding the burden of self-anointed victimhood foisted by history. In this new enterprise, Yogi Adityanath will become the face of the Indian who finally realise their India’s aspirations. Will Yogi Adityanath then become the First Priest and Prime Minister of India as a Hindu state?

Monday, July 10, 2017

International Yoga Day - A Fine Example of Multiculturalism

The media bent themselves backwards covering the 3rd International Yoga Day. Photographs of people in various asanas at various iconic locations - from the Great Wall of China to Machu Pichu littered on-line and off-line media. Cities across the world carved out space and time for their inhabitants to practice this ancient form now seen as an exercise. The Indian Army had their soldiers perform postures along the country’s snowy borders, the Indian Navy had their sailors perform asanas on board their ships, the Indian Air Force could not find any asanas to perform in the air. The Prime Minister of India crowed that Yoga binds the world. It would seem that the Prime Minister, like every other proud India, has laid claim to the power of Yoga. Unfortunately, enlightened as he may be, Modi like the rest of his brethren are willy-nilly ignoring the worlds willingness to try out something alien to their culture. They choose to repudiate the global open-mindedness that results in the acceptance, respect and practice of Yoga.  

It appears as if Prime Minister Modi is doling out largesse to the rest of the world. The imagery of the world being gifted by India does make many Indians proud. Be that as it may, is the very reason for such benefaction the predilection for recognition, something which Modi of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and their ideological fount the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh covet so hungrily? Should there therefore be pride in such an oblation when the underlying rationale is more selfish and less selfless?

There is a concentrated endeavour to internationally showcase and promote this land as being a societal and civilisational cradle. The need to be acknowledged and celebrated as being some kind of originator and an original bolsters the argument of this lands glorious past and validates attempts to return to this bygone era. The process to regress to this much heralded glorious past requires divisive repression of minorities. Thus even as Modi feeds of the world’s multi-culturalism to promote Yoga, the idea of diversity, its, practice and respect is dying in India.

One can see this trend. What began as a sly mudslinging has now become sinister and life threatening. The word secular was morphed to ‘Sickular’, while liberals were branded as ‘libtards’. However, now people identified as such face death by proponents of the Right Wing Hindutva philosophy. In the recently concluded meeting of Hindu organisations, Sadhvi Saraswati is quoted saying seculars will be the first to be attacked.

This conclave which this individual was part of deliberated on ways to ensure that India would be converted to a Hindu state by 2023. People at this conference also disavowed the Indian Constitution and stated that the constitution for India was written by Ram and Krishna. They also demanded the public execution of those consuming beef. One would have drawn strength and comfort from the thought that it was the fringe speaking if it were different from what elected BJP politicians  have been voicing. These politicians are suggesting the death sentence for those found guilty of slaughtering cows. States ruled by the BJP have in place laws that provide for life imprisonment, while police in some of these states plan to use parts of the National Security Act in such cases.

Today, it is hard to ascribe the location of the fringe. Is the elected government part of the fringe or the fringe part of the elected government?

It is disconcerting that the international multi-culturalism that Modi and his ilk enjoy and manipulate is not accorded or practiced in India. The Prime Minister of India, the RSS and the proponents of the so called Hindu Rashtra should learn from the acceptance of plurality and diversity that has resulted in the global celebration of Yoga. But it seems that they would rather use this multi-culturalism abroad to achieve their own saffron hued mono-cultural xenophobic wonderland at home.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Modis Triumphant US Visit

In India there was a breathless buildup to the visit of Prime Minister Modi to the US. The media reported on the planned ‘red carpet’ welcome, the working dinner at the White House which was the ‘first for a foreign leader’. Much was expected from the meeting between Prime Minister Modi and President Trump. The joint media briefing addressed by Trump and Modi turned out to be a love fest. So powerful was the bromance, that for the first time ever Trump put another leader at par with himself. Trump called himself and Modi ‘world leaders of social media’. In one swoop Trump did what Modi and his team have been trying to do - place Modi on the same level as that of  a leader of a superpower. Our Prime Minister does have a true friend in the White House.

These two leaders are spearheading social experiments that threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. So it came as no surprise that this joint media briefing was an excursion into platitudes. They tried to outdo the other in recognising the others contribution as a leader. Each trying to validate, support and recognise the others work, putting a lid on the others bubbling cauldron.

But Modi like Trump does like to blow his own trumpet. It was therefore pre-ordained that  in his address to the Indian diaspora he would mention  the surgical strike and his governments spotless record. On the surgical strike Indian media reported Modi as saying “When India did surgical strikes the world experienced our power and realized that India practices restrain but can show power when needed.” and “No nation questioned India’s surgical strikes”. Modi never shared with his captivated audience whether the strikes reduced the threat of terrorism that we in India face. 

He also spoke about the stain free government that he leads. Is greasing the palms of people the only form of corruption? Modi, did not speak about how young minds are being corrupted instead of being ignited. No mention was made about young men being brainwashed into lynching others for their food habits. He chose to ignore the rot within the government that fosters institutionalised efforts to target minorities. Modi failed to mention the unofficial acceptance of half brained pseudo science as proof of this lands glorious ancient culture and scientific achievements.

Having a minister charged under IPC Sections 153A (promoting enmity between classes), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505 (false statements, rumours etc. circulated with the intent to cause mutiny or disturb public peace) is not exactly unblemished either.   

One of the outcomes of the Modi-Trump bromance was their promise to work together to eliminate Islamic extremism and radicalisation. The commitment, totally blindsiding everyone to what their governments are doing to foment these very two things. In the US and in India minorities, not only Muslims, are facing the brunt of their elected governments isolationist and xenophobic policies. How successful can they be in eradicating global radicalisation and terrorism when the right environment is being created to breed it in the US and India.

Modi proudly promised the Indian diaspora that he was going to make India like the US within their lifetime. Going by what Trump is doing to the US and the path Modi and his cohorts have chosen for India he is going to make good on his promise.