As India heads towards another general election soon we, the undersigned, would like to warn the people of India about the rising danger of bigotry, communal divide, organised violence on and hatred for sections of people in the country.
At a time when conflicts are on the increase worldwide and both the global and national economy are in deep crisis due to falling incomes, rising inflation and unemployment there is a search for a ‘messiah’, a superman who will save us all and restore lost glory or take us towards new ones very soon.
We have been subjected to a media blitz in recent times to convince us that Narendra Modi is the man we need now. This corporate media campaign has already overawed the Bhartiya Janta Party to surrender before the ‘Strongman of Gujarat’. He is being portrayed as a man who has the solution for all the complex economic, social and cultural challenges the country faces today. Modi’s infamous role in the massacre of over 3000 Muslims in his state in 2002 is being brushed aside and he is promoted as morally ‘fit enough’ to lead the nation. False statistical claims, full of half-truths, are being used to present Gujarat as a model that all of India should follow to attain high economic growth. The voices of reason critical of Modi within his own party are being ignored and even attacked to silence them. Narendra Modi is being portrayed as the ‘tough man’ who is capable of taking hard decisions.
The history of the last century tells us that in similar situations, people of different nations have, in their desperation to find a way out, often opted for such ‘tough men’. The results have been disastrous for them. A yearning for ‘hard decisions’ makes us surrender our collective wisdom as well as conscience to such men, who then proceed to rob us of our humanity. This desire for toughness and a hard state has led to the rise of fascist regimes and genocides in the past. The people of Italy, Germany and other countries of Europe have paid a very high price for their folly and the world is yet to fully recover from their misadventures. Generations have suffered an abiding sense of guilt for a decision taken by their predecessors.
Added to it is the fact that The Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) is now actively promoting Narendra Modi as the next prime minister. RSS is an organization, which has been propagating the idea of India as a Hindu Rashtra, a super identity under which all other identities, religious or cultural, are subsumed. India’s strength lies in the confidence that identities of various shapes, sizes and colours have enjoyed over the millennia, a history that forms the very basis of the modern idea of India.
It is precisely this willingness to accept and celebrate diversity that has prevented India from going the way some of her neighbor countries have gone. Any attempt to homogenize India by the brute force of numbers will lead to permanent discord, perpetual violence and the ultimate disintegration of the entity we now recognize as India. The idea of India inevitably includes plurality, mutual respect, accommodation and vital diversity and that idea faces a real threat today.
We do need governments, which can take firm decisions to safeguard and ensure the material wellbeing of the people, especially, the most vulnerable sections among them. And yet we also need to take care that we do not fall into the trap of simplistic claims of there being instant solutions to any national problem. We do need to reiterate the values that constitute the very idea of India, an idea, which promises the smallest of identities a space and a rightful stake in the nation. A person like Narendra Modi, who is a permanent source of anxiety and insecurity for very large sections of our society, cannot and should not be allowed to lead India.
This upcoming Lok Sabha election will again be a test for people of India: are we strong enough to reject the idea of a hard state and a hard leader? Are we sensitive enough not to support an ideology that renders invisible large sections of the population or people? Can we prevent the politics of hatred and contempt for democracy from triumphing over the great Indian tradition of tolerance and brotherhood?
U R Ananthamurthy
Amarjeet Singh Chandan