The Modi-fied INDIA
Dissecting Modi’s New India
Driven by RSS ideology whose rallying cry since its inception has been ‘Hindu’ ‘Hindi’ and ‘Hindustan’, Modi-led BJP wants to sculpt a Hindu rashtra or Sangh parivar to realize its supremacist ambitions. And, in this pursuit, the ruling dispensation has left no stone unturned to translate its dreams into reality. Oddly enough, the New India is undergoing negative transformation that can be deconstructed in the following way:
First, the secular, Nehruvian India is undergoing steady evisceration of the ideals cherished by its founding fathers. The increasing re-Brahiminization at social and institutional levels has made communal conflicts more recurring and manifest at best. Intellectuals are being harassed, universities are under attack, mobs are running amok and minorities are being disgraced and humiliated, and even killed and lynched. Being a Muslim, Dalit, Bihari or Christian is an unpardonable offence in Modi’s India.
Second, the ploy of brinkmanship has scaled unprecedented heights as was witnessed in hastily-executed Balakot offensive. Walking in the footsteps of Clausewitz and Machiavelli, who believed in offence, deceit and deception as the best defence, Modi has upped the ante in the region with his hawkish actions. Indian air force, for the first time in two decades, crossed international boundary and dropped payload in Balakot, putting the last nail in the coffin of theory of deterrence, and sparking new threats of limited, tactical or surgical warfare. On the other hand, it has also raised temperatures with China through military escalation in Arunachal Pradesh and by changing demographic position of Ladakh as it scrapped special status of Kashmir that was envisaged in the Indian constitution. The Line of Actual Control is still heavily militarized and skirmishes are reported frequently along the volatile border.
Third, India’s acquisition of French-made, state-of-the-art Rafale fighter jets has also disturbed the strategic equilibrium in Asia that has further emboldened the BJP regime. India already has sophisticated radars and AWACS systems, nuclear submarines, aircraft-carriers and intercontinental missiles. The gradual build-up of lethal and advanced weaponry is increasing the prospects of confrontation and nuclear war in the region. On the flip side, India is also browbeating its benign neighbours and forcing them to toe its line. The future of the only South Asian organization, i.e. SAARC, is in jeopardy, owing to India’s intransigence and hegemonic ambitions.
Fourth, the ploy of appeasement has also been intricately spun by Modi regime to further its politico-ideological ambitions. In order to appease his masses for achieving electoral gains, Modi has been recklessly experimenting with polity, economy, administration and governance. To curb corruption and graft, Modi introduced the policy of demonetization (Notebandi) whereby 80% of Indian currency in circulation was demonetized. According to a report by ‘The Guardian’, the ill-conceived policy wiped out 1% from the country’s GDP and cost approximately 1.5 million jobs. The printing of new currency also cost heavily to the national exchequer. In the same vein, the goods and services tax dealt a heavy blow to the small and medium enterprises that were already reeling under the claws of demonetization. Worse still, the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, which was always the front burner of BJP’s kitchen, also laid bare the Hindu majoritarian credentials of ‘New India’. This seamlessly played to pander to the sentiments of hardcore Hindutva groups for political objectives
Equally distressing is the fact that Indian media is replete with ‘war hawks’ and ‘nuclear maverick’ journalists who keep on thumping their chests round the clock, and vociferously provoking BJP into going for a full-scale war with Pakistan and China. Press freedom is non-existent while praise freedom seems rampant in Modi-led India.
The reckless tinkering with the constitution also goes unabated as article 370 was nixed to scrap special status of Kashmir in the Indian union. It was intended to alter demographic and geographic realities at one end. Its objective was to raise hackles of Beijing and Islamabad to give them a message that things this time are different in New Delhi where a stiff, uncompromising and ultra- populist leader rules the roost.
The tampering with history has also taken an ugly turn under Modi as is evident from his government’s decision to update National Register of Citizens that will render hundreds and thousands of people belonging to minority communities, especially Muslims, stateless. Historically, this demand grew out of a student-led Assamese movement that peaked between 1979 and 1985 alongside a separatist movement. The Assamese nationalists called for a boycott of elections unless foreigners were struck out of the electoral rolls. In hindsight, the Citizenship Amendment Act is another populist measure to solidify the foundations of a Hindu majoritarian state.
Today, the once ‘secular’, ‘modern’ and democratic India seems to be gasping for its survival. The so-called nationalist pride stemming from the ultra-nationalist and majoritarian Hindutva ideology of RSS is flowing in the streets like lava. The space in India for minorities is shrinking and so is the incentive for a descent dialogue or debate. Although identity politics is rearing its ugly head in many parts of the world, this cocktail of virulent nationalism and religious fanaticism is very dangerous — one that can ignite the nuclear tinderbox in the region the repercussions of which would be staggeringly unimaginable.
The writer is a civil servant serving in the Government of the Punjab.