Vinod Mubayi

In a resolution passed by its national council on Sunday February 19, the BJP proclaimed the establishment of the Ram temple in Ayodhya heralds the advent of Ram Rajya in India for the next 1000 years. “The construction of a grand and divine temple of Lord Shri Ram at his birthplace in the ancient holy city of Ayodhya is a historic and glorious achievement for the country. This heralds the establishment of Ram Rajya in India for the next 1,000 years with the beginning of a new Kalachakra” (event cycle), said the resolution.

Commentators pointed out the close resemblance of the 1000-year Ram Rajya to the proclamation of the 1000-year Reich by Hitler’s Nazi Party in the 1930s. Whether the choice of asserting a 1000-year Rajya was deliberate or just a chance coincidence is not known. However, the fact that the German Nazi leaders and their policies were much admired by the early Hindutva leaders such as Guru Golwalkar of the RSS is not in doubt. As Golwalkar wrote in his book, We or our Nationhood Defined: “German Race pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races — the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.”

Another fact not in doubt is that the 1000- year Nazi Reich lasted only 12 years.

There is an old proverb that you can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time. With the aid of the godi (lap dog) media and unlimited financial support from crony capitalists, the Modi regime has certainly managed to fool a significant number of people over the nine plus years of its rule. With 37% of the vote in the last (2019) elections, it managed to obtain 56% of the seats in the lower house of Parliament and along with its allies has a comfortable majority that has allowed it to run roughshod over the opposition disregarding long-standing parliamentary procedures and conventions. How this turns out in the next national elections due in a few months remains to be seen, however, a review of its record over the nine plus years of its rule reveals a wide gap between appearance and reality.

Anyone visiting India is immediately struck by two things: first, the grotesque extent to which the cult of personality of Prime Minister Modi has advanced; second, the lack of data or facts underlying many of the claims and pronouncements of the PM or his government. Modi’s visage is now far more ubiquitous than the images of popular Bollywood stars used to be in days gone by; his portrait is on public hoardings, bus stops, street light poles, railroad stations, even on the back of some airline seats and vaccination cards as if everything that exists in the country is a gift from him. Mainstream print media amplify the visages by featuring his daily routine and his pronouncements in large font on their front pages in an adulatory tone that 20th century autocrats like Hitler and Stalin or their 21st century counterparts like Trump and Hungary’s Orban would have welcomed. Mainstream TV channels are even more extreme in their adulation and all the traffic in propaganda is strictly one-way as Modi does not hold press conferences or answer questions.

In this atmosphere, counterfactual narratives, also known as fake news, predominate. Many of these narratives may lack factual content as seen below but the atmosphere in which they are delivered is lacking any transparency and is deliberately engineered to make them sound like messages from Lord Ram himself. For example, over-the-top statements such as “under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, “India is fulfilling the goal of all-embracing and inclusive development in the spirit of Ram Rajya” are commonly found in the mainstream media. Many such fawning sycophantic remarks appeared in the wake of the consecration of the temple at Ayodhya on January 22. A few examples of such remarks may be cited:

“The nation, freeing itself from the mentality of slavery, (has) create(d) a new history by taking inspiration from every part of the past,”

“This convention congratulates Prime Minister Modi for making the shared power of heritage and development the identity of new India through his determined efforts and thanks the Prime Minister for making the whole of India experience the magic of Ram,”

“Under the leadership of the Prime Minister, India’s unity and solidarity have received the power of public participation. He has raised the morale of the nation with his policies and leadership. Indian cultural, spiritual and historical pride has been restored in the last 10 years.”

This barrage of sycophantic adulation is designed to induce a numbing effect in the minds of readers and viewers that lets them accept half-truths or sometimes outright lies as God’s own words. In practically all matters, economic, social, political, judicial, security-related, and constitutional rights, claims are made with little factual basis or transparency about the source. Thus, government spokespersons and Modi himself frequently trumpet India as the world’s fastest growing economy; if it is doing so well then why does free foodgrains ration have to be provided to 800 million people, well over half the population?

Over the last month and a half, the Wire news portal has run a series of articles by subject matter experts bookending the performance of the Modi regime in various sectors of the country’s life during its rule over the last decade.

On the economy, despite the Modi regime boast of India as the fastest growing economy in the world, leading economist Deepanshu Mohan and his associate Aryan Govindkrishnan in an article in the Wire entitled “Growing Evidence of a Vanishing Middle Class, Struggling Low-Income Class in India” debunked these rosy claims of the government unambiguously. In their view, the data clearly reveals a K-shaped economic recovery in the post-covid period where the richer sections are becoming wealthier while the lower middle class and poor are declining further. Based on the Monthly Consumer Expenditure data from 19992000 to 2022-23, they write “the period between 2012-13 and 2022-23, has observed the double whammy combined effects of sporadically rising inflation and stagnating real wages, which in the last decade provide evidence of a worsened per capita standard and quality of life for most Indians (if understood in terms of the economic and consumption choices made available to households).”

 A leading economic expert, Prof Arun Kumar, has indicated that there are two inter-related problems with the GDP data. The data itself is suspect and the method used to calculate the GDP is not valid.

Princeton economist Ashoka Mody states that Indian economic development has regressed alarmingly in the past five years, during which 70 million workers have piled into an unproductive agricultural sector. Outside agriculture the main options are in financially (and often physically) precarious construction jobs and low-end services like street-vending, like the pakoda (fritters) making jobs Modi has often trumpeted.

Some of the most incisive comments on the economy have come from Dr Santosh Mehrotra on the issue of unemployment. He points out that on assuming office in 2014 the Modi government had promised to add 20 million jobs a year but the reality is very different. Dr Mehrotra points out several salient facts that are worth quoting at length:

“Open unemployment was barely 2.1% in 2012 (the last year for which data was available before the BJP came to power). It had already nearly tripled to 6.1% in 2018 (National Survey Organization’s Periodic Labor Force Survey (PLFS), conducted annually since 2017-18), the highest rate in 45 years of India’s labor force surveys. The total number of unemployed was one crore (ten million) in 2012 before the BJP came to power – but it had tripled by 2018 to three crore (thirty million). The youth unemployment rates went through the roof for: those with middle school (class 8) education it rose from 4.5% to 13.7%; with secondary education (class 10) from 5.9% to 14.4%; those with higher secondary (class 12) education from 10.8% to 23.8%. Educated unemployment worsened sharply. For graduates, the unemployment rate rose from 19.2% to 35.8%; and for post graduates from 21.3% to 36.2%. All this did not deter the Government of India (GOI) from announcing a New Education Policy 2020 that higher education enrolment should rise from the prevailing 27% (for the relevant age cohort of 18–23-year-olds) to nearly double to 50% by 2035. How are these new higher education graduates supposed to be employed, if the current crop of graduates faces rising unemployment?”

In Science and Education, India appears to be facing a systematic threat to the foundations of its scientific and education systems built up over the last seven decades especially through the pioneering efforts of the leadership of Pandit Nehru and Maulana Azad to set up the Indian Institutes of Technology and establish a scientific temper in the country’s life. A 12-member panel of Indian scientists issued a report that identified the promotion of pseudoscience over established scientific principles and evidence-based research and the bureaucratic and institutional endorsement of unproven remedies and practices as threats that could mislead the public and erode trust in genuine scientific enterprise.

Where the Modi regime and the BJP cheerleaders and its andh bhakts (blind worshippers) have clearly over performed is in the practice of hate speech and persecution of religious minorities. A report by a Washington, DC based group called India Hate Lab documented 668 hate speech events in 2023 that targeted Muslims. Three-quarters (75%) of these events took place in BJP ruled states, union territories that are administered by the union government led by BJP, and Delhi where the police and law enforcement come under the central government. The report indicated that over a third of the events “included a direct call of violence against Muslims”, while almost two-thirds included references to “conspiracy theories, primarily involving love jihad, land jihad, halal jihad and population jihad”. A quarter featured speeches calling for targeting Muslim places of worship. Organizations associated with the Sangh Parivar, such as VHP and Bajrang Dal were responsible for almost half of the events. Another feature of these hate events after October 7 is the use of the Israeli war on Gaza to promote hate against Muslims by characterizing Muslims as inherently violent.

Using religious identity to foster divisive politics is an integral practice of the BJP and may be regarded as part of its DNA. The new Ram Mandir that will usher in the BJP’s promised Ram Rajya over the next millennium is being built on the ruins of the Babri Masjid that was demolished by a violent mob of Hindutva fanatics egged on by senior leaders of the BJP. Is the campaign to demolish mosques in Varanasi and Mathura and replace them by temples part of this Ram Rajya?

Meanwhile, one can also ask if outright lying and deception as the State Bank of India is indulging in by refusing to obey the Supreme Court’s judgment on electoral bonds is part of Ram Rajya? Or the harassment and denial of entry to respected academics like Prof Nitasha Kaul, despite their holding a valid OCI card and an invitation from a (non-BJP) state government to a conference, also what Ram Rajya will feature in future?

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