October 26, 2015

India: Dietary supplements of Hindutva metaphors (Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal)

Kashmir Times, 25 October 2015

Dietary supplements of Hindutva metaphors
By Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal

'If someone throws a stone at a dog, how can the government be blamed?' The question posed by a union minister, a former army chief, repulsively shocking as it is, reveals the new order that the present union government wishes the nation to conform to and its own ugly choice of metaphors. There are two parts of the statement. One is a bid to absolve the government of any blame for any lawlessness -the usual explanation that those in responsible positions shamelessly use to evade responsibility. Maintaining law and order is the responsibility of the government and it is completely accountable for its failure to act against those taking law in their hands, disrupting peace and resorting to violence and committing crimes. The direct responsibility of maintaining law and order in the Faridabad case, over which V.K. Singh made that remark, may lie with the Haryana government but the Centre has a responsibility to ensure law and order as well. That it is a question of casteist violence puts the onus on the Centre even more. The two Dalit children were burnt alive and other family members injured by Rajputs who had been opposing their right to live in the village for over 3 decades. Reports have revealed that the incident had a year long history of violence and murders as well. It wasn't an incident that happened quite out of the blue. If BJP in opposition was extremely critical of the previous UPA government for its inability to rein in the increasing culture of rapes and crimes, on what basis does it abdicate the same responsibility to maintain law and order while it is seated on the saddle?

The first part of the statement is an even more brazen pronouncement of the open legitimacy that it is offering to this culture of intolerance against socially backward minorities. The choice of metaphor is deliberately intended to humiliate and justify crimes against humanity. This is not the first time that the metaphor of dog has been used for the minorities of the country. Two years ago, when Narendra Modi embarked on the ambitious race to the hot seat of prime minister, he thus spoke of Gujarat 2002 pogroms he is accused of engineering: "If a kutte ka bacha (offspring of a dog) comes under your car while you are sitting in the back seat, it is not your fault." Despite such despicable choice of metaphors consciously chosen to describe a particular religious minority, the nation made an even more conscious decision to choose the man as prime minister. What else could they expect but to find a resonance of that ugly echo one and half years after Modi assumed power? The echo from here will only get louder.

This is a government that seeks to alter the course of history, Indian ethos, syncretic culture and its democratic core with a slew of such metaphors. The shameless metaphor of a dog with little sense of remorse by anyone, each time it is uttered, is a ploy to induce acceptability for such humiliation of the minorities and also ends up being a colloquial expression of the 'inequality of minorities' that is one of pet projects of this government. A year ago, one BJP leader had propped the abusive word 'Haramzade' (illegitimate) and just before the former army chief chose to trivialize the crimes of burning alive Dalits, BJP's chief minister in Haryana, remarked that Muslims could stay in this country only as long as they gave up eating beef. There is a systemic pattern in which a discourse is being propped up and circulated that Muslims and other minorities are second class citizens of the country by openly setting conditions to their existence or by drawing analogies that are humiliating. An idea of nation building in the imagination of the RSS, the mentor of the BJP, is being popularized by the BJP and its men in and out of the government with introduction of a new political lexicon.

This lexicon is bereft of both a sense of history and science with complete, unconditional and unquestioned deification of Hindutva and glorification of Hindus through endorsement of myths. Hindu mythology has been pedaled both as history and as evidence of scientific advancement of the Hindus. No less than the prime minister talks about introducing Hindu religious scriptures as part of history syllabus and tempering science with mythological seasoning of flying machines and nuclear weapons of the Mahabharata period.

Words and policies are propped up by design to alter the meaning of words that are difficult to erase from national memory or its constitution. That is why Gandhian ideology has been turned into a metaphor of cleanliness because the actual essence of Gandhian values is opposed the fascist politics of hatred perpetuated by the RSS, BJP and all other affiliates of the Sangh Parivar. It is difficult for them to purge the existence of the word 'secularism' even though the present government chose to deliberately delete the words 'socialist' and 'secular' (a vital part of the preamble of the constitution) from the official advertisements on Republic Day. The saffron brigade is allergic to a plural culture and hence also the word secularism. However, finding it difficult to purge the word from India's constitution, it has appended the word 'pseudo' as a prefix to secularism to dilute the essence of the word. As if secularism is some kind of an imagined, non-achievable and non-existing utopia. None of the BJP leaders profess belief and commitment in the values of secularism but instead oppose the secular values, not by openly opposing the idea of secularism but by giving secularism the new nomenclature of pseudo-secularism.

Similarly, all dissent is now an act of anti-nationalism. Criticism of the government, whichever quarter it comes from, is pedaled as conspiracy at the bidding of the Congress or by unseen foreign hand. Whether it is protesting FTII students, NGOs opposing government policies or intellectuals speaking out against acts of brutality and oppression of official silence, the Sangh Parivar is busy propagandising that these are politically motivated and manufactured. If it could, the saffron brigade would throw out not only the word 'dissent' from its dictionary but also make the very act of dissent an illegitimate one.

Slowly, the poison is being injected into the veins of the nation through a new lexicon with the explicit ambition of building a Hindutva nation through purging words or robbing them of their essence, introduction of metaphors that are either meaningless or were once plainly too abusive and racist. Call it a Goebbelian strategy or a war of propaganda, the idea is to make the nation immune to these words and metaphors and turn India into a country that militates against the essence of its constitution, its plural ethos and its democratic spirit. The idea is to create an India that belongs to just the upper caste of one community, a country that chooses not to embark on the course of progressive vision but one that is regressive and narrow-visioned, a nation that is belligerent and arrogant, one that feeds on the false illusion of glory and superiority. The diet chart of distortions has been prepared to feed the nation and bring it on that course and it is being introduced in phases. The 'dog hit by a stone' is the latest dietary supplement.