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The Ministry of Utmost Happiness has become one of the most reviewed books since and even before its publication in June 2017. The antici...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Two years and counting

Next week Modi government will have completed its two years in office and those two years have turned to be nothing less than a cauldron of unimaginable and hitherto unheard upheavals. The events and issues that arose in past two years were shrouded in an unforeseen and unpredicted surrealism. Before any dissection of past two macabre years, it would be imperative to dwell on the genesis of a phenomenon that put Modi in power as a prime minister instead of being indicted for his overt and covert acts of omission and commission while he was heading the state government of Gujarat.

The irony of Gujarat due to its history of recurrent communal violence and its shift to rabidity of communalism wouldn’t be lost on any student of history with an interest in the study of sectarian strife. The word irony was used in the context of Gujarat as being the home state of Gandhi who inspired non-violence world over. The public opinion in India under Modi has shifted towards idolization of the Nathram Godse, the man who shot Gandhi.  As a member of Hindu Mahasabha, Godse was incensed over what his organization perceived as Gandhi’s tilt towards Muslims and appeasement of Pakistan. The last act of Gandhi happened to be his fast against Indian government’s non-payment of financial dues to Pakistan in the aftermath of the partition of sub-continent. Gujarat that Modi presided had been inspired more by Godse than Gandhi. Modi acting strong against Muslim population and his well-recorded invectives caught imagination of increasingly communalized Indian population that paved his path to power at the federal level. Through application of any conventional laws, Modi would be indicted for either inciting gory killings of Muslims or at the very least for his failure to act in time to prevent mayhem under his watch. In one of the well-publicized cases, Hinduvta henchmen attacked a Muslim majority residential colony and the neighbors sought protection from a politician and former member of national parliament, Ahsan Jafri. Little did they know Mr. Jafri would himself become the symbol of atrocities committed by the men who owed their allegiance to none other than Modi?

Many say that Modi became prime minister, despite those acts in Gujarat or his aficionados would have everyone believe that it was his Gujarat model of progress and wealth, which he himself sold during a slick election campaign of 2014 in flesh and holograms. Truth be told it wasn’t despite and it most certainly was the case of in spite; it was his act of showing Muslims their right place that caught fancy of overtly Hindu epoch fed Indian middle class with a slanted sense of history. That would still require paraphernalia to make an electoral success plausible and possible. Anyone with an understanding of the machinery of government in a continental sized country would know the oversized supremacy of bureaucracy and right wing Hinduvata forces grasped that wisdom much earlier and more efficiently than anyone else. The task of infiltration of bureaucracy at all strata started in earnest early on, but that gained a zealous momentum when Jan Sangh, a forerunner of BJP entered national government as part of a conglomeration under the banner of Janata Party in 1977 following the electoral defeat of Indira Gandhi. The reality and depth of that incursion by rabid communal forces of Hinduvta was brought to light by Liberhans commission that went into events leading up to demolition of Babri Masjid. Deliberate dereliction of duty by so many officials on that day of national shame happened to be more than just an unintentional fortuitous quirk on their part.

Nevertheless, the final push towards consolidation of bureaucracy that included civilian and military, in Hinduvata column was attained through meticulously crafted process during six long years of BJP government of Vajpayee from 1999 through 2004. The fully partisan bureaucracy made change of government and ascension of Congress led UPA in many ways redundant. Though, to be on the side of fairness, the UPA government, particularly in its second term played no less part in undermining itself. That government suffered an inherent contradiction because of being run as an overtly neoliberal government that ran counter to the basic welfare agenda of Congress party. Though main blows to that government came from the partisan bureaucracy that undermined its agenda at most crucial moments through selective leakage of documents, coupled, at later stages, with RSS backed anti-corruption campaigns. By the time of 2014 elections the erstwhile government was barely creaking.

That scenario provided a fertile ground for Modi to plough into and that he did with relish of an accomplished conman by launching a fact free campaign. It was the campaign based on perversion and mauling of history that brought him to power massive mandate. That was the first time since 1984 that a single party had majority on its own.  In recent days many members of Modi government had been harping on the theme of a Congress-free India, sarcastic reality would make it amply clear the Modi through his early on acts in government made India rather BJP free through forceful retirements and brutal sidelining of doyens and veterans of that party. As a matter fact what he instead created has been a dangerous coalition of people steeped in garish personal loyalty and ultra Hinduvata rabidity personified by Ratko Mladic like Amit Shah with Modi himself as a Radovan Karadzic doppelganger and the government for past two years has run on the rabid agenda of that coalition.

If there were one feature to characterize two years of Modi government, nothing could match the phenomenon of a steep anti-intellectualism with deep-rooted hatred and loathing for scholarship. That profound hatred and distrust and in many ways fear of education or anything remotely related to it has formed running theme for the regime that continues unabated to this day.  Keeping in essence with that nihilistic agenda, mediocrity and mythology has supplanted genuine scholarship. Centers of learning and education all over the country are under attack with deliberate efforts underfoot to mold history slanted towards myth at the cost of reason and evidence. Not that the government has attained any laurels in any other sphere. The perceived precedence of foreign affairs through extravagant jamborees abroad of Modi proved nothing more than egomaniac acts trips with state of affairs involving near neighborhood in complete shambles. Any successive government, though, can correct course through different actions. But the damage through assault on education and scholarship will have affect on generations and generate crowds of intellectually handicaps; that would be the lasting and definite legacy of Modi government of two years. But those who could perceive knew exactly the kind of government India was getting, any other notion would be utter delusional.
-Rajiv Kumar

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