Vinod Mubayi and Raza Mir


Two discourses, both violent and toxic, have dominated the political scene in India recently. One is the topic of nationalism that has become a source of a vicious, undemocratic campaign directed against anyone who raises a voice against the RSS version of Indian nationalism that can be summarized by the slogan “Mera Bharat mahan (My India – great!). The latest victim of this campaign is the respected human-rights organization Amnesty International, which has been accused of sedition in a lawsuit filed in a court in Bangalore simply because Amnesty sponsored a meeting on Kashmir in which victims of violence by the Army and police recounted their stories. (A letter by Civil Society Organizations reproduced below addresses this issue).


Charges of sedition have been filed against many others this year, such as protesting JNU students in New Delhi and the former actress Ramya, simply because they dared to differ with the BJP’s approved definition of Indian nationalism. Ramya’s offense was to have said, after a visit to Pakistan as part of an Indian delegation, that the Pakistani “people treated us well. They are just like us.” This differed from the Indian Home Minister and the Indian Defense Minister’s characterization of Pakistan; the latter in fact claimed that going to Pakistan is like going to hell. The Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech but the current government’s position seems to be that speech is free only if what is said agrees with the government’s view.


The other issue is the violent attacks by self-described “gau rakshaks” (cow protectors) on Dalits who are engaged in the leather trade, skinning carcasses of dead animals, that include cows and bulls. This has sparked a nationwide upsurge among the Dalits, has led to calls for Dalit-Muslim unity (Muslims also practice the same profession and have been themselves frequent targets of the Hindu extremist groups), and caused a large embarrassment for the BJP, which successfully roped in many Dalits into its camp in the 2014 election. Modi was forced to break his usual silence on such issues to obliquely criticize the cow protectors but he and everyone else in BJP knows that it is part of Hindutva’s DNA to support “cultural nationalists” i.e. the RSS agenda.


Since the talk of “development” that catapulted Modi and the BJP to power in 2014 is wearing a little thin these days, the true (and ugly) face of Hindutva is coming to the fore. One hopes it will influence to some extent those fence sitters who lapped up the “sabka saath sabka vikas” slogans two years to think again about the implications of their vote in future elections.

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