End of Religious Politics Doesn’t Signal End of Hate Politics

It’s official now – political parties cannot seek vote in the name of religion. So, the fate of political parties that openly fought elections in the name of religion is now sealed by the recent Supreme Court judgment. This might finally signal an end to religious politics for parties like Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). Err, wait; maybe not.

Who thinks Modi or BJP will ever think about Muslims?
Who thinks Modi or BJP will ever think about Muslims? This photo is from a January 19, 2017 meeting of a delegation of Muslim "scholars", "intellectuals" and academicians, businessmen, with Modi. At least one of them had their FCRA cancelled by BJP govt earlier. The highlights of what they discussed according to Modi's own website was corruption, black money, radicalization, terrorism.

What goes into making an image of a political party? Indian National Congress (INC) was the most instrumental contemporary party during India’s struggle for independence from the British Raj. It pliantly succeeded in creating an unbeaten representation of being the sole nationalist party dedicated to the idea of Indian nationalism. Advocating INC then was seen akin to exhilarating Indian patriotism. The prevalent scenario, popular mandate, and brands Gandhi, Nehru, and the likes – all went into the making of this image of INC. The image was strong enough to facilitate the party to remain in power for 49 years since India’s independence.

However, this image of INC being a nationalist party dedicated to Indian nationalism underwent some level of obscurity under the leadership of Indira Gandhi. The subsequent Emergency era saw the emergence of Congress (I) with a slightly crooked and bizarre image. From being the sole nationalist party, Congress (I) became more prominent as the largest preferred party of the Indian populace, while other political parties amplified their respective political vibes. The leverage of no other available political choice, which INC or Congress (I) had hitherto enjoyed, had started shredding off. The irony of the Iron Lady had probably cost the Congress dearly.

Assassination of Indira Gandhi resulted in a flurry of sympathy votes that paved the way for Brand Rajeev to ascend his political ladder as the youngest Prime Minister of India. It was during these days that the image of Congress as the preferred political party started dwindling fiercely and Indian polity saw the rise of the Left Front and Saffron Brigade. Brand Rajeev could do little to repaint its already sluggish and listless image. Congress’s image as the largest preferred nationalist party soon became even more blemished with ominous corruption charges, and Congress or Indian National Congress could not reconstruct its image ever since. Soon after, India stood to witness the ascension of the full-blown Lotus under its Saffron shade; and the very idea of India and Indian patriotism stood at crossroads. With this, came an era of hate politics and a political image that is so irrepressible that it promises to remodel the entire Indian political landscape.

The edifice of this new hate political regime is primarily based on religion – an open truth that none would deny. While the BJP openly seeks to replace the current India with Ram Rajya or Hindu Rashtra, parties like AIMIM are quick to hoarsely lament it with their own “greenish” Muslim enthusiastic faces. A careful analysis of the rise of such parties that clamor on religion reveals a dangerous verity – the changing political insignia stands to redefine the very essence and idea of Indian nationalism. Communalism, racism, bigotry, intolerance, and xenophobia have become the new colors nurturing the Indian polity. This insignia has different meanings and reverberations for different populaces. For the likes of BJP, AIMIM, and other extreme left organizations, it provides words to divergent oscillations. Almost all these organizations have learned the art of thriving on “hallowed” belligerence; however, with a difference.

Yet another perilous facet of this changing political landscape is the surreptitious incubation and nurturing of majority syndrome and mobocracy. This alarming precedence is engulfed with unparalleled “neurotic relations” and “vertiginous assortment of negative emotions” – and is set on the path of “frenzied mutual destruction” – as Rajeev Bhargava argues in his article – India's majority-minority syndrome. What is more frightening is the unnerving intensification of majority identity alignment with India’s national identity. Anything is national and patriotic only if it subscribes to the Saffron image and grandeur; rest others are overtly anti-national by definition. Saffron Brigade has always been a step ahead in upholding this – both in words and actions – while AIMIM and the likes are left to suffice with concaved orations alone.

Quite nefariously, the farcical logic of minorities limiting (and even threatening) the majority rights and identities has been profusely trumpeted to gain popular acceptance. The pretense of this threat to majority rights being engraved in the Mughal regime (whether or not true, who cares) is now enough of evidence to unleash a national crusade to wipe out the minority identity. Babri Masjid/Ram Janam Bhoomi discord stands as the tallest illustration of this anarchy. The unprecedented prelude that Babri Masjid/Ram Janam Bhoomi had set in Indian political showmanship culminated in Godhara/Gujarat of 2002 and Muzaffarnagar of 2013. (The role of Congress in setting this prelude is another topic in itself, which may require dedicated space.)

The stage had been precisely set to change the color of the idea of Indian nationalism. Colors White and Green have been surreptitiously dropped from the national identity, and an India with a Saffron permanence has precipitously emerged. “Cognitively incapacitated” cult worshippers emerged out of the somber unscathed; and unnerving hallowed belligerence got a new dimension. Burning, lynching, raping, political persecutions and executions of minorities in the name of nationalism, all became a despondent reality… Sadly, this Saffron India is due to rock the national melancholy for quite some time, if bygone indications and hindsight are to be believed.

Now, the culminating point is this – the national hue of the exalted and celebrated tricolor has already been replaced to the core by Saffron. The crux of the Supreme Court judgment is that “…an appeal to voters on the grounds of Caste, Creed and Religion is impermissible”. It is surely a highly commendable judgment of the Honorable Supreme Course and signals the end of religious politics. What it doesn’t end is the idea of hate politics – which can simply find another political canvas to paint Saffron. We may not hear cries of “Ram Rajya” or “Hindu Rashtra” now; whether or not it will prevent us from stomping towards a “Bhagwa Rashtra” is a daunting question that only time may portend and answer.

Sharjeel Ahmad is MBA and an Economics graduate. He is an instructional designer by profession and is presently based in Saudi Arabia. He has keen interest in social, economic, and political issues facing Indian populace, with special emphasis on minority issues. 

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