About twenty years ago, at a meeting in Montreal, the late Eqbal Ahmad (1933-1999) described the political situation in South Asia as the Pakistanization of India and Indianization of Pakistan. We are not sure if both predictions of this eminent political scientist have proven to be correct but most certainly India is no more what Jawaharlal Nehru has envisaged in his “Tryst with Destiny” speech on the midnight of August 14; it is becoming closer to what was theorized by Eqbal Ahmad.


The BJP has not even completed one year of its current five-year mandate as the ruling party.  All the affiliates of the Sangh Parivar headed by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) are working overtime to convert India into a primitive state culturally, politically and economically. Narendra Modi is delivering more than he could have ever promised.


Economically, any constraints on big business especially in term of land acquisition are being removed through Ordinances. Provisions for the benefit of the deprived sections made by the previous government especially the “Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act” (or, MGNREGA) are being tampered with and their funding has been reduced in several states ruled by the BJP.


Science is being replaced by myths; the mind-set of leaders is so primitive that it would easily match Taliban’s opposition to eradication of polio in Pakistan. According to these leaders, everything from stem cell research to aircraft technology was discovered in India. Astronomy will be replaced with astrology and there are plenty of astrologers in India.


Culturally India is a land of Hindus and Hindus alone. The Aryan migrants are native and all others foreign. To survive in India, one has to become Hindu. There is forceful conversion of non-Hindus to Hinduism.


These developments are beginning to make the liberals who supported Modi’s image of “development man” feel a bit squeamish now. Columbia University economics professor Jagdish Bhagwati has been a steadfast Modi supporter, incessantly beating the drums for the “Gujarat model” for several years. He recently warned that the shrill Hindutva campaign could distort Modi’s developmental agenda.  This is a bit hilarious, since Modi and Hindutva go together like a “horse and carriage” as the old song says. What Bhagwati and other social liberals on the editorial and op-ed pages of Indian newspapers are saying reveals some of the contradictions facing Modi’s regime.


On one hand, the interests of the largest crony capitalists like Adani, who have grown immeasurably through Modi’s Gujarat model, are opposed to the small and medium business like the trader community that is a cornerstone of the BJP over the country. On the other hand, social liberals like the Times of India editorial writers who had swallowed Modi’s vikas slogans wholesale now feel ill at ease with the antics of the Hindutva crowd. If Modi’s mask is torn off it may tend to disintegrate the electoral majority cobbled together by the evil genius Amit Shah.  This majority is based on a strange combination of fear and hope that led to the Hindu majority casting its vote for the BJP.


The element of fear was stoked through a deliberate polarization of the electorate on religious grounds, starting with the Muzaffarnagar riots in UP, the “love jihad” campaign, and now by the targeting of Christian churches in the Delhi region in the run up to the elections next month.  Five churches in the capital region have been vandalized or subjected to arson in the last few weeks.  The hope is based on the overwhelming projection of Modi as a kind of “miracle” man whose image is actually everywhere, on hoardings at bus stops, on every page of every newspaper, to convince the youth that he is the messiah who will lead them to the promised land of vikas.


The reality, however, is beginning to wear a little thin.  After seven months of the regime, very little, if anything, has changed in the life of the aam admi.  The fortuitous drop in world oil prices has kept inflation low, but apart from that there is not much to indicate any improvement in the economy, which is stagnant. To divert attention, emphasis is being given to India’s imagined past greatness as witnessed in speeches by Modi and his acolytes in forums such as the Indian Science Congress, that claim all kinds of miraculous things happened in the Vedic age, such as airplanes flying backward, forward, and sideways, interplanetary travel, and surgery so advanced as transplanting elephant heads on human torsos. The fact that such claims can make India the laughingstock of the world has not had much impact on the semi-literates who constitute the majority of Indian scientists. But they have stirred some unease in the newspaper editorialists and business leaders who fear that such talk can “distort” the emphasis on development, by which they mean multinationals investing in India.


However, regardless of the fears of some of Modi’s followers, culturally, educationally, and politically, India is lurching backward under the hammer blows of the RSS combine, swiftly eroding the pillars of secularism, democratic and minority rights bequeathed to us in the Indian Constitution authored by the founding fathers of the Indian state such as Ambedkar. The clearest expression of this is the semi-literates like Dinanath Batra and others of his ilk now being appointed to prestigious positions in the country’s educational apparatus whose job is to prepare textbooks in line with the RSS view. With this task completed, the prophesy of Eqbal Ahmad regarding the Pakistanization of India will have come true.

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