Modi’s Silence

On one hand, Indian Muslims and those concerned about them are duly justified to feel disturbed about a recent surge of communal incidents targeting the former. These incidents certainly suggest that several anti-Muslim extremist, communal elements appear to be under the impression that with their associate party heading the central government, they can practically take “law” in their hands and target Muslims, hurting their religious sentiments and causing them loss of lives and properties with impunity. Yes, this also refers to an attempt made recently by several Shiv Sena legislators to forcefully feed a fasting Muslim and questions raised by a BJP member about patriotic inclinations of the Indian tennis star Sania Mirza.

Irrespective of whether BJP leaders remain silent on criticizing these communal activities or not, there are several linked aspects which cannot be ignored. Statistically, though Muslims are a minority in India, constituting less than 14 percent of this country’s population, in both these incidents, the targeted Muslims have not been isolated. Rather, it is because of the support that targeted Muslims have received from non-Muslims, secular Hindus, media, several political parties and other sections, that these communal arrows have literally backfired.

Questions are still being raised as to how did the Shiv Sena legislators have the audacity to so flagrantly violate the religious sentiments of a fasting Muslim? Why has Sania’s nationalism been questioned? The media and secular Indians, with support of other political and social sections, have pushed these communal elements into the dock. Thanks to the pressure exercised by those upholding and valuing Indian secularism, the anti-Muslim behaviour of these communal elements is being questioned throughout the country and most parts of the world. True, legally perhaps these communal elements may escape the needed punishment. But their personal and party political image already stands considerably damaged as the dark side of their communal characteristics stands exposed before the country and rest of the world.

The last point may be countered by saying that there is nothing surprising about this. Members of Shiv Sena and many of the BJP have been infamous for long for their anti-Muslim, extremely communal tendencies.

True, but it cannot be ignored that ahead of parliamentary elections, BJP’s chief campaigner, the present Prime Minister Narendra Modi, went overboard in convincing the electorate about his “secular” credentials and that he believes in an inclusive India. Besides, he and his party did not assume power by making noise about their communal and/or anti-Muslim religious intentions. They paid primary attention to their development agenda, without adding in public any overtly religious and/or communal colour to it.

India’s political history stands witness to the fact that playing the communal card against secularism never helped any party gain power at the Centre. It has taken BJP a long time to accept this socio-political reality. It was not without reason that during his campaign, Modi made sure that camera also focused on members of his audience dressed as “Muslims”. Political compulsion apparently made Modi leave his earlier communal image aside, put on the secular mask and thus succeed in heading the present government.

Now that Modi has completed two months in office, his actual “secularism” remains under constant scrutiny of the public and media.

It is not without reason that questions are being raised on why has he remained silent on communal incidents targeting Muslims? For a change, Modi’s “silence” is not helping him improve his political image. It is not adding to the “secular” image he tried so hard in promoting to win the parliamentary elections. In other words, by promoting his own “secular” image during his electoral campaign, Modi has also indirectly raised “secular” expectations from his role as the prime minister of all Indians.

There is a view that Modi cannot be blamed for communalism displayed by others linked with his party. This view would have carried some credence if Modi was not heading the present Indian government. As the prime minister, he is held responsible for communal activities, targeting secularism, by those associated with his party and government.

In view of editorials and opinion pieces of reputed Indian dailies questioning Modi’s silence over such communal incidents, it is clear that true Indian secularism has not allowed itself to be bowed before communalism displayed by his political associates. Rather, by loudly raising questions about their communal behaviour as well as Modi’s silence, Indian secularism has held its ground safely and strongly. And this is likely to hold control in coming days in preventing similar communal behaviour targeting Muslims being repeated by politicians linked with Modi’s government. Thus, while deliberating over several Shiv Sena legislators’ communal behaviour, that of a BJP leader questioning Sania’s patriotism and similar incidents, it is equally important to pay due note to the same having been virtually cornered by Indian secularism.

During his electoral campaign, Modi may have donned on the secular mask because of political expediency with a view to win some Muslim votes. Whether he still cares about Muslim-vote or not, he probably was not prepared for his own “silence” raising doubts about the legitimacy of his secular mask. Sounds of his silence and that of communalism have literally fallen flat against Indian secularism! 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 August 2014 on page no. 11

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