September 28, 2016

'unfortunate that the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, decided to invoke the idea of purification in a speech' - Editorial, The Telegraph (28 Sept 2016)


Breach of faith

The word, 'purification', has many rather unpleasant resonances. It suggests, straightaway, the notion of impurity. It is unfortunate that the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, decided to invoke the idea of purification in a speech delivered to the national council of the Bharatiya Janata Party. He did this by way of the writings and beliefs of Deendayal Upadhyaya, one of the principal ideologues of the BJP and the entire sangh parivar. Upadhyaya, and Mr Modi quoted him with approval and aplomb, believed that Muslims in India were in need of cleansing and purification. They were unclean because, even though they were originally Indians, they had been polluted by Islam. The Muslims in whose veins ran, according to K.S. Sudarshan, another ideologue, the blood of Ram and Krishna, had to be cleansed so that they could reclaim their Hindu origin. The obvious, and dangerous, implication of such beliefs is that it sees a very large section of the Indian population as being 'impure', and further sees the faith to which they subscribe to be a polluting agent. It is ironic that Mr Modi was using Upadhyaya's arguments with the purpose of showing that the BJP and the sangh parivar do not treat minorities as inferior entities. Upadhyaya's views, in fact, have the opposite effect. They reinforce the idea that the sangh parivar and the BJP have a deep-seated prejudice against the Muslim community.
Mr Modi's reiteration of the beliefs of Upadhyaya does not come as a surprise. All his life, he has been a loyal and devout member of the sangh parivar. A prejudiced view of the Muslim community is an integral part of the mindset of all sanghis. Many would argue that it is part of their DNA. It should also be remembered that Mr Modi was speaking at the BJP national council, and so to the converted he said what the converted wanted to hear. What he overlooked, willingly or otherwise, is that since he is the elected prime minister of India, his identity as a loyal member of the sangh parivar has become secondary.
Mr Modi's primary, and most important, identity is that he is the prime minister of India and, therefore, he represents all Indians, irrespective of creed. By speaking about the minorities through the words and ideology of Upadhyaya, Mr Modi no doubt won applause and support from his party members - it was, indeed, music to their ears. But to a wider audience, his words were appalling. As the prime minister of India, Mr Modi cannot view Indians through the filter of purity and impurity. India has no such filter.