The other side of Modi, Muslims should know

Celebrated writer and former IG Police Maharashtra, S.M. Mushrif, argues that Mr Narendra Modi has changed, that Muslims should re-look at him and his policies...

By now it has become abundantly clear that the RSS has been dichotomised into two distinct groups - one led by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and the other by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Bhagwat faction has been harping on the Hindutva agenda and tactically playing the Pakistani card, off and on, to please the Hindutva hardliners in the RSS. The Modi group, on the other hand, has been focusing on inclusive development sans Hindutva and sincerely trying to improve relations with all the neighbours, including Pakistan.

Though the difference between the two RSS factions became more pronounced after Mr. Narendra Modi shrewdly manoeuvered to get himself declared as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP in 2013 and, especially after he almost single-handedly won the Lok Sabha elections with flying colours and donned the mantle of the Prime Minister in May 2014, the process of dichotomy had started as far back as 2007. In fact, the seeds of discord had been sown in 2002 itself.

Over the years Mr. Modi had seen the likes of Mr. L.K. Advani, Mr. Kalyan Singh, Ms. Uma Bharati having been ruthlessly dumped by the RSS, after using them for its ulterior and perverted motives. Therefore, after the 2002 carnage, he had been circumspect and making his moves very cautiously. Whenever he had the slightest suspicion as regards the motives of the inner group of the RSS, he would anticipate their gameplan and would up his ante. It was here that he rubbed them the wrong way. The consequences were to follow:

As he had reined in the rabid elements in the VHP during his first tenure as the Gujarat CM, the VHP had already turned against him. Therefore, as the 2007 Gujarat elections approached the hardliners in the RSS and BJP joined hands with the VHP and started an anti-Modi movement which gradually gained momentum.

Months before the 2007 Gujarat Assembly elections, a “socialist Brahmin”, Ghanashyam Ojha, had published an anti-Modi booklet entitled I am Swanyamsevak No. 1. This booklet contained many anecdotes and incidents to indicate that Modi had been working against the RSS ideology. It is a well known fact that the booklet was circulated throughout the country by RSS workers.

The radicals in the RSS, BJP and VHP perceived that Mr. Modi had become too big for his boots and hence they did not want him to become CM again even at the cost of BJP losing power in Gujarat. Therefore, rebels in the BJP launched a new party called Maha Gujarat Janata Party under the leadership of former state home minister Gowardhan Zadafia and fielded candidates against the official candidates of the BJP at many places. But they could not stand before Modi’s charisma. Mr. Modi’s BJP again won hands down and he became Gujarat CM for the second time.

Modi baiters were waiting for an opportunity to discredit him. That was provided to them by the Ahmedabad blasts of July 2008. Shortly after the blasts, an anti-Modi sms campaign was started in Gujarat. Messages criticising Modi and ridiculing his claim of Gujarat being the most secure state were sent to thousands of people. But the Gujarat police promptly swung into action and within three months traced the origin of the sms to Ashwin Patel, the state deputy secretary of VHP and prosecuted him.

 In keeping with his election-promise of development, CM Narendra Modi got a survey of unauthorised constructions done by the collectors of respective districts and started demolishing the ones coming in the way of developments. In November 2008, 90 religious structures, mostly temples, were demolished in Gandhinagar alone. Nothing could be a better opportunity for the VHP, RSS, Bajrang Dal, Maha Gujarat Janata Party and others to embarrass Mr. Modi. They promptly formed a “Mandir Bachao Samiti” and started rubbishing Modi’s development agenda. The VHP state secretary Ranchod Bharwad said, “Not temples, he is demolishing Hindutva”. The Mandir Bachao Samiti gave bandh calls in Gandhinagar, Surat and other places, but they evoked little response.

Apart from pursuing his development agenda, Mr. Modi turned his attention to Muslims. First of all, he ensured that no innocent Muslims were arrested in terror-related cases. By then, he was convinced that the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts were the handiwork of the IB, as the latter, in its capacity as the immigration authority had allowed the US national Ken Haywood, who was seriously suspected in the case, to leave the country despite a red alert. Modi was also convinced that the IB had the blessings of his adversaries in Hindutva outfits and that the blasts were caused with the twin objective of embarrassing him and demonising Muslims. But he could not intervene in the investigation for fear of public backlash, as by then the public had been convinced about the IB’s well publicised theory of Muslim involvement. Therefore, he did what he could do under these circumstances. He virtually banned IB’s entry into Gujarat, with the result that bomb blasts and communal riots totally stopped and there were no further arrests of innocent Muslims. Then he turned to the economic and educational uplift of Muslims. Though these developments were little known outside Gujarat, by the year 2014 the information started trickling into other parts of the country.

Though Narendra Modi had been robustly projected as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, the 2014 Lok Sabha election was not a smooth sailing for him. Contrary to public perception, the RSS and its tributaries did not support him wholeheartedly. On 9 March, 2014, when the election campaign had reached its highest pitch, the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, while addressing the RSS Pratinidhi Sabha in Bangalore, told RSS workers that it was not RSS’ job to chant “Namo, Namo”. The signal was loud and clear. But in spite of RSS’ half-hearted support, Modi almost single-handedly pulled his party through to a two-third majority win.

After taking over as the Prime Minister of India, he lost no time in making his secular credentials known to the whole world. The gesture of inviting the heads of SAARC countries, in spite of three of them being Muslim countries, was the first step in that direction. That he continued his policy of secularism, unmindful of the rumbling within his own party, is borne but by the following examples.
1) President Pranab Mukherjee while outlining the policy of the new government in his first address to the 16th Parliament, stated that the madarsas in India would be modernised so that the Muslim boys taking education in madarsas would be competent and self-reliant.
2) In his first speech in Parliament, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi assured the House that there would be zero tolerance of communal riots in the country; that his Govt. would endeavour to do focused development of the Muslim community; that he would not mind even if somebody called it appeasement of Muslims. To bring home his point, he gave an example of his cycle repairer. He said, when he was young, one Muslim mechanic used to repair his cycle; today his grandson was doing the same job and asked the House whether it was not the government’s duty to see why a particular community remained so backward.
3) Within a few months of coming to power, Modi government declared and started implementing various schemes for the welfare of minority community such as skill-development scheme for artisans, scholarships and other learning aids for students, mission empowerment for women aimed at making them self-reliant and self-sufficient.
4) A decision was also taken to continue the subsidies and other facilities being given to Haj pilgrims over the years.

5) Modi government shortly implemented the policy decision by President Pranab Mukherjee, on behalf of the government, in his first address to Parliament in respect of the madrasas. It introduced “Nai Manzil” scheme to improve the lot of madrasas which aimed at promoting modern education like English, science, computer etc., developing skills of students, job-training to students and preparing madrasa students for Board examinations recognised by the universities.

All these absolutely positive and secular decisions on the part of the Prime Minister deserved deep appreciation and wide publicity by the media. But hardly any mainstream medium sufficiently highlighted them. Most of the print media tucked them away into some insignificant corner and some of them only made a passing reference in fine print. As for the electronic media, most of them relegated these news items to the running scroll at the bottom of their screens.

Moreover, the absolutely secular stand taken by Modi was not liked by the radicals in the RSS and BJP and they intentionally started embarrassing him by making highly provocative communal statements such as “India is a Hindu Rashtra,” “Muslims and Christians will be converted to Hinduism (Ghar Vapsi),” “Every Hindu couple should have atleast four children,” “Ney, they should have 10 children”, “Whether you want ‘Ramjade’ or ‘Haramjade?,’” “The Gita be included in the curriculum” and so on.

But Modi did not take it lying down. He publicly admonished the RSS and BJP leaders and exhorted them to desist from making communal statements. When he found that they were not paying heed to his appeal, on 20-12-2014 he went to the extent of offering to resign. The RSS felt extremely embarrassed by Modi’s tactical move and hence the RSS-controlled mainstream media did not publish this news item even though it was not only of national, but of international importance.

Moreover, Narendra Modi was perhaps the only Prime Minister who so openly hailed Indian Muslims as patriots and rejected linkage between religion and terrorism. In an interview to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, PM Modi said, “Indian Muslims will live and die for India and there will be no takers for Al-Qaida in India”. The interview was telecast on 19 September, 2014. Again, while addressing the Council for Foreign Relations in New York on 30 September, 2014, Modi repeated the same sentiments and added that “Terrorism in India is ‘exported’ and not ‘home grown’” and that “There is nothing like good terrorism and bad terrorism”. He called for a collective fight to tackle the global challenge of terrorism.

In his address at the East Asia Summit in Myanmar on 13 Novemebr, 2014, he unequivocally rejected any linkage between religion and terrorism and called for a “genuine international partnership” against all forms of terrorism.

But the honest, liberal and unbiased stand taken by him vis-à-vis global terrorism, Al-Qaida and Indian Muslims, was apparently not liked by the RSS-dominated IB. Of late, the IB has become so powerful that it had the audacity to confront the PM head on and embarrass him by openly refuting his well-meaning claims, as is evident from the following news-items, which appeared in reputed national dailies in the October, 2014.
1) The Indian Express, Pune, 3 October, 2014:
Al-Qaeda Chief in the region may be of Indian origin: Intel agencies
India’s intelligence agencies have begun investigating information that the head of al-Qaeda’s new unit in the Subcontinent is a former Uttar Pradesh resident, highly placed government sources have told the Indian Express.
2) Sunday Times of India, Pune, 5 Oct., 2014
Centre may go soft on Indians fighting for ISIS:
An NDA regime may be naturally seen as “tough on terror,” but the Narendra Modi government seems to be toying with the idea of taking a humanitarian approach towards the Indian youth who are suspected to be fighting alongside the Islamic State (also known as the ISIS) in Iraq”. …. “Intelligence agencies suspect as many as 18-20 Indian youths to be fighting in Iraq alongside ISIS”.
3) The Indian Express, 17 October, 2014

NSG Chief warns of multi-city attacks. Choudhury says Al-Qaeda and ISIS may join hands with terror group in India. (In this news item it is stated that NSB chief J.N. Choudhuri has earlier served in the IB.)

The same news was also published in The Times of India, Pune, 17 Oct., 2014, under the caption “NSG warns of Qaida hit, leaves governemnt red-faced”. The intention was obvious - to embarrass Narendra Modi.

It is thus apparent that the hardliners in the RSS and the IB are not allowing Modi to adopt a humanitarian approach towards Muslims. Nor can Modi look up to Muslims for support, as the majority of them are not prepared to forgive him for 2002, even though he has undergone a change of heart since then. Thus, he has been caught in a pincer hold of radicals in the RSS and the IB on one hand and a major chunk of Muslims on the other. Under these circumstances, it is the duty of the moderates in both the major communities to bail him out and allow him to breathe freely so that he could concentrate on his core agenda – development.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 April 2015 on page no. 5

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