Normalising Narendra Modi

Nehru, Gandhi and the Neheru-Gandhis(N,G & N-Gs) are probably the most criticised leaders in India in the circle of the hindu nationalists. I am forced to use the word “hindu” nationalists” here in absence of a non-offensive and/or self-described word to mean someone who supports the ideals of the BJP, RSS and their sister organisations. Evidently, Narendra Modi has described himself as a hindu nationalist, but that seem to have been in more rue than glee. Notwithstanding the widely differing visions, works of the N, G and N-Gs, the HNs can hardly agree with them on anything. Pick any book of slightly right-wing ideals, and you are most like to have Nehru’s patriotism in suspect, his vision discredited. This makes sense though, since the politics of the HNs positions itself as an alternative to the N,G & N-Gs. However, the N,G & N-G do have a stellar stand in Indian politics, in terms of the sheer number of terms they have headed the govt. of this country but also the way they have shaped the country’s economic progress and global recognition. I admit both of these are interdependent and highly controversial, but both illustrate BJP’s quintessential conundrum – it is the fame of these N, G & NGs which Hindu nationalists defame they need to match.

It began with Atal Bihari Bajpayee. Around the time he trumped the then Iron man (IM-I) L. K. Advani for this un-vetted secularism, an anecdote circulated. That Nehru once remarked, “he has prime ministerial timber” after listening to Bajpayee in the parliament,  was something that caught the string of the unthinking middle class. I am not sure, if Nehru waxed poetry in his speeches, or found the especially slow-flow of words particularly prime ministerial, we even don’t know if the younger AB Bajpayee also spoke in slow-mow, but it was Nehru’s tacit and a rather prescient approval of AB Bajpayee to adorn “his(?)”  throne which placed him in public imagination. You could find out, it wouldn’t be a Hindu nationalist to circulate that anecdote.

Ram Chandra Guha does not claim to be a Hindu nationalist. It was he who would start the same normalization of another Iron man (IM-II), Modi. In his unashamed ogling published in “The Hindu” he says, “There is something of Indira Gandhi in Narendra Modi”. Perhaps that was not enough. Not perfect enough for an “Iron Man” to be compared to a female leader (although an Iron lady herself). So we get Tavleen Singh, famed for her gossip column in Indian express who says, “Modi is the first major political leader since Jawaharlal Nehru who has articulated a clear economic vision.” It would be interesting to dissect this heap of praise, but to do that to a line of a journalist who has deep respect and warmth for Advani despite her disliking of his politics and rath yatra, because he called her after reading her book and because she had travelled with him in 1977 would be a waste of time. (By the way, people were killed in massive numbers because of that yatra and politics.)

But notice here the insinuation of political legitimacy and competency of the BJP leaders by banking on the public memory of the long-serving former Prime ministers of India. It is a hollow assurance these columnists tender to the people of India based on completely hypothetical correlation. The nature of political expediency is such that a party that opposed political dynasty in democracy needs to prove its royal blood. 

However absolute Narendra Modi’s accomplishments in Gujrat’s economy be, it is a wonder how people who claim to be liberal and apololitical otherwise, notwithstanding the contradiction in terms, completely ignore Gujrat riot. With interactions of various actors in this extended Hindu Nationalist family, over past 10 years suggest me four ways they could rationalize Gujarat riot of 2002.

  1. Not True: They simply refuse to accept that Gujarat riot happened. In the next few years after the riot, this was a major stand of the expatiate Gujaratis, and a lot of them continue to hold major English dailies responsible for spreading the “misinformation” about Gujarat 2002. They position themselves as alternative news-source, claiming themselves more authentic than the rest since they hail from Gujarat, and eloquently brand every other voice “pseudo-secularists”, communists or congress conspirators. It is important to remember that, much of the vernacular media during the period did not report the large-scale loss of lives and properties of the muslims nor it did report the of the magnitude of the carnage. This probably had created a cognitive dissonance in the mind of this group of people, for which they could be initially forgiven. But after 13 years of the pogrom, it is simple blind faith, ignorance and prejudice.
  2. True, but not Modi: Some acknowledge the Gujarat riot, even the disproportionate loss to the Muslims. These people however squarely exonerate Modi of being responsible for it.  If Modi was the Chief Minister during the riot of 2002, he is also the Chief Minister during the next 10 years of peaceful growth, they argue. L.K.Advani is among the leading voices in this argument. However, this argument is very informative in itself because what it proves is that if a govt. is interested it could administer relative peace for as along as it wants. If CM Modi did it for 10 years in Gujarat now, CM Mayawati could do it in one of the most volatile states regarding communal riots. And if govt. does want not peace, Gujrat 2002 results. Fractions of this group of people like to see the riot as a consequence of Godhra train burning. Lets put the facts aside, and ask if the disproportionate loss of lives, properties, honor and home of only a particular community far from the site of burning can happen spontaneously?
  3. Can we move on?: Gujarat riot-2002 is not fiction; Narendra Modi is in the center of it. As facts emerged, documentaries, sting operations, court, CBI investigations vacillate between almost trying Modi and his ministers/officers and giving clean chits, it is increasingly difficult for some people deny all of it. Instead they ask can we move on now, focus instead on growth and development, clean governance for a change? Yes, we should, but there is a probable killer among us, in fact not among but above us, hoping to rule us tomorrow. How comfortable you would be to know that your boss had got few people killed for whatever reason? Or that, your spouse is a killer? How much of a development-freak you would be to move on, if your neighbours, members of your community, yourself were victims?
  4. We did it!!: There is a fourth category of Modi supporters. They acknowledge the massacre, the rapes, the loots with all its enormity, celebrate it and are grateful to Modi for it.

Most of us are not blind to deny any violence did occur, nor bigoted enough to celebrate such things. Even if we were, we cannot be publicly so. But it is the idea that we should move on, whoever be responsible, so empathetically argued by the extended family, does not, result in a new socio-economic reality. The fact about development is almost like the cliché, “all that glitters are not gold”. Multilane roads, flyovers, sky-scrappers and Memorials (lets keep Maya in loop too) are easier to build than a more equitable, pluralistic society. Infrastructural investment in a short time can give you a “vikash purush” (development man) but it takes years of societal investment to have vikashita janata (developed citizenry). Modi had 20 years to do that, still Gujrat carries some worst human development indices. But again, Jyoti Basu also had 27 years.

In a zerosum game of electoral politics, a thousand different reasons to support Modi do lead to coronation of an alleged mass murderer as Prime ministerial candidate of a major national party. The effect of which would be far-reaching.

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Between Temples and Toilets

This is the 21st century, and India still does not know how to clean up its own shit.

Unwittingly Narendra Modi parroted Jairam Ramesh. He would have to do that a lot more, because the more you are required to speak the more you’d be required to repeat, sometimes your own self, sometimes others. Pitting public sanitation ahead of (not against) temples results from an embarrassing fact, that almost half of the villages in India defecate in open spaces. That sounds like a horrible thing, only if we didn’t believe that a minimum of 53% people (i.e in delhi) live in slums without toilets. Think about mumbai, percentage population of slum dwellers can be easily 70-80%. In such case, toilets sounds pretty progressive, a development issue.

Where it does not sound progressive is, what kind of toilets?

Gujrat, along with Uttar Pradesh (where Mayawati ruled), are incidentally few states where a particular type of toilets are probably worst kind of “non-violent” human cruelty. The dry latrines are simply enclosed places where the ‘caste-hindu’ shit. Next day, someone needs to clean it up, put it in a basket and take it to the open space. This toilets are a thousand times worse than open-defecation. Navsarjan Trust, a foundation started by veteran activist Martin Macwan, has been fighting it out since 1992, when “manual Scavenging” as the work is known, was banned in Gujrat. Till 2013, Gujrat govt. refused to carry out the survey even, forget about punishment of the employer, rehabilitation of the worker in this inhumane trade. Not surprisingly because, for Modi as was for his compatriot Mohandas Gandhi, cleaning toilets is the spiritual duty of the dalits. The biggest defaulter of humanity is the central government run railway. It uses a form of toilets which are open-defecation in reality, like the dry latrines. Because Mr. Modi and Mr. Ramesh, the definition of “open defecation” is not based on whether you are in the open space while you defecate, but whether your feces is left in the open.

In a radical new theory, supported by emperical data, Dean Spear of Princeton university has argued that shunted growth of Indian children are because of open-defecation. In his theory, “Faeces contain germs that, when released into the environment, make their way onto children’s fingers and feet, into their food and water, and wherever flies take them. Exposure to these germs not only gives children diarrhoea, but over the long term, also can cause changes in the tissues of their intestines that prevent the absorption and use of nutrients in food, even when the child does not seem sick”.

Can you guess what about the Dalits?

Between the making of secular and pro-development masks, the dalits are left in the lurch.

Little Modi’s Corporate Safari

He pitched himself against non-existent contestants Mian Musharaf, Itali ki beti in elections. Should you be asking then if the people were choosing the Premier of India, Amrika-style? Siriman Narendra Modi does not contest election, he seeks referendum. Also, there is hardly any remarkable opposition leader in Gujarat Congress, which remains the main and weakened opposition party against the mean and powerful ruling BJP. BJP’s intra-party dissidents, loyalist to the former BJP CM are sternly dealt with. Reelected twice in a row and gaining support from unexpected (or most expected as you ‘ll see in a jiffy) quarters, the three-time chief minister has his prop-roots anchored deep in Gujarat politics. Remember that SMS, “I was CM, I am CM, I will be CM forever”. That was not the confidence of an elected representative, it the chutzpah of an authoritarian.  When he spelt out CM meant common man, he probably meant, “that does not mean I wont be PM”.

“A single irremovable party is a dictatorship”-Rosa Luxemberg had said. If not dictatorship, it is a dysfunctional democracy. Or simply Majoritarianism. Secularists of India are turning in their graves. No, I am not saying secularism is dead yet, but the secularist are put into their little boxes with their armchair and laptops, and are buried. Six feet under. How else can you explain months-long violence, rape and arson in Khandamal, Orissa, and year after year around Christmas. Like most Hindu festivals, Christmas will soon be appropriated by Hindus in Orissa, may be as ‘Nun Vijay Divas”. Like their festival of “lights” and of “colors”, it will be festival of blood. Warm blood, with a smell of cast iron. The secularists are perplexed. On what feet Modi  stands?

The answer is simple two-pronged. Hindutva and Corporatism. Hindutva is all-so-known, what needs explanation is corporatism.

Corporatism, or “corporativism,” originally referred to Mussolini’s model of a police state run as an alliance of the three major power sources in society—government, businesses and trade unions—all collaborating to guarantee order in the name of nationalism. What Chile pioneered under Pinochet was an evolution of corporatism: a mutually supporting alliance between a police state and large corporations, joining forces to wage all-out war on the third power sector— the workers—thereby drastically increasing the alliance’s share of the national wealth.

Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism- Noami Klein

Corporatism effectively provides a free-run for the corporate and business houses. In the process the state swells up in foreign investment debt and economic inequality. Gujurat is witnessing all of that. The social cost is colossal; Gujarat ranks 14 out of 17 major states in India state hunger Index (only above Bihar, Jharkhand, and MP). Compared with the Nutrition Index of 1994, Tamilnadu, Assam, Maharastra which were ranking below Gujarat have moved way up. The only states that lagged behind Gujurat, then and now, are undivided Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. There are indications that schemes for the poor are not implemented. Much more needs to be dug out, and said. Poverty has declined in Gujarat, so has everywhere else. The argument is how much redistributed is the fruits of development that you are bragging about in your state.

The state facilitated the strengthening of the upper castes through, for example, land reforms and the distribution of political goods. However, as the state became the source of the upper castes’ domination, their dependency upon it for their well-being and legitimacy increased, and this, in turn, impaired their authority over the backward castes. In the past, their domination had functioned as a surrogate for a state. They had been able to gain command over the rest of the society through various mechanisms of patronage. Now, with the growing penetration of the state, when traditional modes of mobilization and control were changing, the upper castes began losing that form of The crisis evolved as political parties began to recognise the electoral importance of backward groups.

Communalism, Caste and Hindu Nationalism: Violence in Gujarat- Ornit Sahani

Strengthened as they were by then, they sought to undermine the welfare state by shifting the opportunities of economic well being to private institutions, owned by them financed by the state, drawing unrestricted resources from the state. Because that is how their would dominate and function as a ‘surrogate for the state’. No, they didn’t come up with this conspiracy, but when it was presented to them by the investors and industrialists they readily bought it. Unhindered free-market economy requires someone at the helm of affairs who not only ignores dissidents but suppresses them if be needed. This is exemplified from the Southern Cone of Latin America to the Asian Giants in East. Modi has that autocratic timber, no doubt, but the process was set in motion long back.

The pogrom of 2002 against Muslim is not just a religious extermination. They meticulously planned and targeted all Muslim business houses also. Earlier riots were directed against backward castes, Dalits. Despite the incriminating evidences against the BJP/VHP/RSS, the political combine remained heavily financed, by individuals and corporates. Without financial backing Hindutva could not penetrate that deep since it thrives on unpopular themes like conflict and orthodoxy, and financial backing would not come from corporate houses if Hindutva was not profitable. Modi is just another facilitator.

Be warned all development-freaks. Atal Bihari Vajpayee played ‘the dove’ prank with you. As the prime minister of India, he allowed thousands of Indians to be butchered, burned and raped, or whatever sequence the perpetrators’ perversion allowed, and he condoned it. His nuclear brinkmanship cost heavily to India, and the south-asian subcontinent. Modi is playing the ‘development’ prank now. When the same businesses houses which argued state withdrawal from market are lining up for bail out around the world, India needs to rethink its development policy well-ahead of time.

In Dec 2002, wiping blood off their hands,  BJP Govt. signed a pact with Bush administration ‘not to send each other’s national’ to International Criminal Court. India must ratify ICC and scrap the above pact so that in future such massacres are prevented and people like Narendra Modi are persecuted for genocide, not touted for the CEO of the country, as if the Indian state is only for their insatiable profit.