Modi’s “Stand” Against Sangh

Should Prime Minister Narendra Modi be complimented for having finally come out with statements which suggest that he is not pleased with Sangh Parivar’s “hate speeches?” Modi recently stated that comments against minorities were “uncalled” for. He also pointed out, “Hate speeches and discrimination against any community won’t be tolerated….Our Constitution guarantees religious freedom to every citizen and that is not negotiable,” Modi reportedly said. Interestingly, these comments of Modi have been largely projected as being directed against Sangh Parivar. And this has created the impression of Modi having finally displayed a strong stand against Sangh Parivar’s communal behaviour.

It is well known that since Modi government assumed power at the centre, several members of Sangh Parivar have become emboldened enough to make extremely communal statements against minorities, including Muslims and Christians. Over the past one year, though on a few occasions, Modi did give impression of asking them not to indulge in such behaviour, but he has been more in news for remaining silent against communal activities and hate statements of Sangh Parivar members.

With Sangh Parivar having been in news for its hate speeches, Modi’s recent statements have been assumed to have been especially made to convey a strong message to them. Though headlines on Modi’s comments read, “... Modi sends message to Sangh Parivar,” “Modi warns Sangh Parivar...,” “Modi criticizes Sangh Parivar...” and so forth, his statements do not refer to Sangh Parivar. Modi has thus played a cautious game. He has let the media assume and also propagate his “stand” against Sangh Parivar’s “hate speeches” and its “discrimination” against minorities, but in essence, he has maintained his actual attitude (inclination) towards Sangh Parivar. There is no ground on which Sangh Parivar can display an attitude of being offended by Modi having criticized them. As mentioned earlier, Modi has not directly referred to his comments being against Sangh Parivar’s “hate speeches.” Thus, Modi has tried to cleanse his past image of remaining silent regarding Sangh Parivar’s “hate speeches” without actually taking any stand specifically against Sangh Parivar. He has used media to spread and propagate “news” of his being critical of Sangh Parivar, whereas the real statements do not support this point.

Even if Modi had specifically mentioned Sangh Parivar, that would have been as good as his propagating “news” about his stand against their communal speeches and activities. If Modi is serious about his stand against Sangh Parivar then simply issuing statements to express the same would not be sufficient. He needs to take action against those indulging in communal behaviour and hate speech. Just as the Constitution guarantees religious freedom to every citizen, it also lays down restrictions to prevent abuse of any community’s religious practice. Similarly, while freedom of speech is guaranteed to all citizens, it is not supposed to be misused to abuse other citizens. This implies that legal action can be taken against elements, who have tried abusing other citizens’ religious identity, freedom to worship and so forth. Now, the question here is, has Modi specifically warned Sangh Parivar members that their hate speeches targeting Muslims and other minorities also amount to misuse of their constitutional rights?

Modi’s statements can be viewed from another angle. Following completion of a year in office, quite a few opinions have been expressed on Modi turning a blind eye towards Sangh Parivar’s activities. In fact, it has also been pointed out that activities being indulged in Sangh Parivar, including that of education’s saffronisation, would not have been possible without a green signal from Modi. Perhaps, Modi was not prepared to face strong criticism regarding his secular credentials after completion of one year in office as prime minister. From this angle, his statements against “hate speeches” may be viewed primarily as another attempt being made by him to convince the world about his secular inclinations.

Undeniably, Modi’s comments backed by media reports may put a check for sometime on the saffron brigade activists from indulging in hate speech. However, prospects of Indian minorities and secular citizens being convinced by the same seem remote. Before he became the prime minister, while campaigning for Lok Sabha elections, Modi paid special attention to focus on development, his promises for the people and also his secular image. That was a part of an electoral campaign which did help his party win Lok Sabha polls. But, now a year has passed. Since the day, he took charge of the Union government, his words, speeches and all political activities are no longer viewed by people as a part of his electoral campaign. To a degree, Modi has still not shed his pre-election habit of propagating and advertising his image. But the voters now expect his role to be action-oriented, which spells results for them in keeping with their expectations.

Thus, simply stating that Modi will not tolerate “hate speeches” carries little relevance for those having faced communal behaviour of the Sangh Parivar over the past year.    

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 June 2015 on page no. 11

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