Go ahead, rename India itself

Where will this renaming spree lead us to?

Aijaz Zaka Syed
Srinagar, Publish Date: Nov 19 2018 11:57PM | Updated Date: Nov 19 2018 11:57PM
Go ahead, rename India itself

Can you change the past by changing the present? Would Hinduising Faizabad, Allahabad, Ahmedabad, Aurangabad, Hyderabad and so many other great Indian cities help wipe out the country’s rich Muslim past? After all, every inch of the land carries the unmistakable imprint of the rich Muslim contribution to the great Indian civilization.

Ironically, this ire against India’s former rulers pointedly ignores the exploitative role of the British and historic injustices meted out by our last colonial masters. The manufactured Bengal famine alone killed 3 million people.

Yet the saffron fury is solely directed against the 1000-year long Muslim rule.  This despite the fact that unlike the British, who were in India only to plunder and pillage, the Mughals and other Muslim dynasties made India their home.  They loved this land and its evidence lies in every part of this beautiful land.  But then this had never been about an accurate understanding of history.  This is about power and this “reinventing” of India spree suits the BJP’s narrative of Hindu victimhood, earning it votes. Hopefully.          

Will this mindless obsession to paint India saffron help solve any of its myriad problems though? But then that’s the whole point of the exercise.  The renaming fad, at a staggering cost to the exchequer, is the opium that would help a billion people forget their immediate woes and feel instantly good about themselves and the country. 

This is about making ‘us’ feel potent and powerful and showing ‘them’ who calls the shots. This is the shortest route to reflected glory. 

Besides, no cost is too great when such exercises in political expediency can be useful distractions. But why now?

Only weeks ago, six months before the General Elections, this government was seen as having reached its tether.  The economy is in meltdown; unemployment is at its worst, and massive corruption scandals like Rafale are blowing up in the face of someone who vowed ad nauseam ‘na khaunga, na khane doonga’ (I am not corrupt and won’t tolerate corruption).  Farmers are killing themselves in their thousands in a country whose majority subsists on agriculture. 

Virtually every institution, from the Supreme Court to the Reserve Bank of India to Central Bureau of Investigation -- critical to the wellbeing of democracy and the republic -- is unravelling, thanks to the relentless abuse and mismanagement at the hands of the Hindutva clique. 

Opposition parties are also finally getting their act together after waking up to the threats, not just to the republic but their own survival.  The dramatic victory of the Congress-Janata Dal coalition in Karnataka by-polls this past week sent a strong message to the BJP and the rest of the country while reminding the opposition it could take on the BJP only if it stayed united. 

All that has now been relegated to the background as the whole country stares, transfixed as if in a trance, at the colourful balloon sent up by the clever apparatchiks and spinmeisters of the Parivar. 

Modi and company sit back and enjoy as a billion people work themselves up into a tizzy earnestly debating the old and new names of cities in question and their etymology. 

There are very few who think like Kirti Deolekar who in her tweet has slammed the renaming spree as the “height of insecurity and idiocy.” Another angry citizen on Twitter, a resident of Faizabad (now called Ayodhya) has called out the BJP for turning “a melting pot of diversity into a microwave of hate.”

But these are solitary voices of reason in an increasingly dark and depressing landscape.  Coupled with the boiling cauldron of the Ram temple, this renaming exercise, the Parivar hopes, may once again help it divide the voters to reap a windfall in the ongoing elections in 5 states and General Elections next year. 

Things have already been heating up on the Ayodhya front. Top RSS-BJP-VHP leaders, including central ministers, have been openly threatening the Supreme Court, demanding a favourable verdict in the “interest of Hindu sentiments.” The highest court in the land is being pushed to “respect Hindu sentiments” or else… 

In other words, justice or a “favourable” verdict must be delivered not on the basis of the merits of the case or the Constitution but because the majority says so!

Some others favour bringing in a new law granting the land where Babri Masjid once stood to the Hindus.  Then there are others who are more candid as they ask the Muslims to just give up their claim on the mosque site demonstrating their “respect for the Hindu sentiments.”

It’s like having razed your house to the ground, the neighbourhood bully would want you to formally give up your claim on the land respecting his sentiments!

One doesn’t quite know whether to laugh or cry over the state of the nation.   

Meanwhile, an excited media announces the good news that 50% of the carving work on pillars of the Ayodhya temple is completed. The media has long ago given up pretending to be an objective observer. Indeed, many TV hosts see no irony in backing the Hindutva hotheads’ calls to the SC demanding the verdict they want.     

Not to be left behind, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has promised a magnificent statue of Lord Ram at the entrance of the temple town.      

This is an incredibly simple yet successful formula -- one that has repeatedly helped the BJP swell its ranks, metamorphosing from a 2-member outfit to the largest political party in the country. 

Floundering on all fronts and running out of ideas, it is but natural that the BJP has gone back to its original agenda of spreading sweetness and light, fanning an absurd sense of insecurity in the Hindu majority against a voiceless, persecuted minority.    

 As a matter of fact, its agenda has never changed; only tactics to play, underplay and obfuscate it keep varying according to the demands of the situation. 

And right now, painted into a corner by a resurgent Congress and cocky Rahul Gandhi who wouldn’t shut up about the Rafale deal, touted to be the biggest scam in history, and incredible mismanagement of the economy and runaway inflation, the Parivar has concluded that only Lord Ram and stark religious polarisation can rescue it.   

What’s most unfortunate about this whole business is that the Parivar gets away with this brazen exploitation of the Hindu religious sentiments for power in the world’s largest democracy, again and again.  This despite the fact that the Constitution expressly forbids the use of religion in politics under Section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

Yet the Parivar has repeatedly flouted it by exploiting the religious sentiments of the deeply religious Indian society. Indeed, its whole worldview is inspired by and is based on the exclusivist Hindutva doctrine in which minorities, especially the Muslims, have no place.  The very raison d’etre of the BJP is open hostility and enmity for all things Muslim. Yet successive governments, especially those of the Congress, treated it with kid gloves, allowing the party to emerge as the single largest party in the country at their own expense. 

The Election Commission and the courts have also looked the other way as the BJP went about peddling hate and bigotry, dismantling the secular fabric of the country.  Today, the party and its Parivar have emerged as the greatest threat to the idea of India itself.  For this, the Congress and secular parties have to blame no one but themselves.The day is not far when they may rename India itself. 

 

   aijaz.syed@hotmail.com 

 

  

 

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