Was it for Growth or Right Wing Lunacy

Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi wears an Indian traditional turban as he sits on the first day of his fast at a convention centre in AhmedabadPTH is grateful to Abhinav Pandya for making this contribution. In recent days India has been in news with respect to rather hyper active RSS whose activities have raised concerns regarding the future trajectory of the country. Abhinav has contributed before also and this is a timely contribution with respect to recent developments in India.

Abhinav Pandya

On 16th May, I felt a great sense of jubilation over the victory of Mr. Narendra Modi, so called development messiah of India. The political space in India had become so corrupted that everyone wanted riddance from the misrule or rather chaos emanating from 200 years old party which seemed to have become outdated in every respect. The need for change, in fact, I would go to the extent of revolution was felt with such great urgency by everyone that a country of 1.2 billion people voted in unison after two decades. Mr. Modi , his promises and his governance model of Gujarat appealed to the young , emergent and growth-hungry middle class so much that the history of 2001-02 was sidelined for a moment. People like me who had left India for good, felt like coming back and they did. Many, including me came back to India shunning lucrative job prospects in US.

It’s been more than six months now and I am almost about to head back again to foreign lands to seek a better future. However, before going I feel like sounding an alarm bell to Mr. Modi so that his energy, caliber and ideas, which already seem to be vanishing into thin air, get a last chance of survival.

The disillusion has already set-in as even after six months a sound policy-framework for India’s growth trajectory seems to be completely missing. The government seems to promising a mile and that too only in words and giving an inch. We hoped for major reforms in governance,  bureaucratic recruitments, economy, rural development and foreign policy. Nothing came except a spate of few symbolic gestures like the appointment of Mr. Doval as NSA, clean India campaign, entertainment  generating talk-show-diplomacy of Mr. Modi and a ‘selfie’ every day. I personally submitted a presentation seeking desired reforms in foreign policy and recruitment-cum training of diplomats. But, nothing happened except a few formal meetings with 500 year old, status-quoist joint-secretaries. Even then I was hopeful as  I thought it might be too early to expect a completely change of development model.

But then after these disappointments, new breed of retrograde and saddening developments have emerged on the socio-political landscape of India. They are the release of the ‘forces of nuisance’ by which I mean the extreme Hindutva hardliners and a system they want to set-up in social, political, economic and educational landscape of the nation. Suddenly, it seems that ruffians and hooligans have thronged into the portals of power, and they are polluting the domain of policy-making. Now, notions like Indians flew fighter jets and knew stem-cell technologies in ancient times are being projected as a part of serious intellectual discourse. The home minister of the country claims that the ‘uncertainty principle’ of physics was stolen from Vedanta and other right wing ideologues can be often seen shouting that Lord Krishna raided Russia and captured 100,000 cows from there. Suddenly, the entire human progress in the field of science, technology, maths, medicine and human sciences seems to be emerging from the majestic ancient Indian culture and religious doctrines. Very soon, entire India will be 100% Hindu and then all the people travelling in trains, buses, rickshaws will be Hindus. Everyone will be a Hindu and then India will realize its true potential. The prominent right-wing leaders are claiming to change the geography of South-Asia and bring Pakistan back into India (might be out of sheer love for Lahori food!!!)

Previously, the case was that the policy was guided by semi-literate bureaucrats and a team of opportunistic, arrogant and misguided intellectuals who had no idea of the reality but now it seems that cheap, populist forces who are born and raised on conspiracy-theories and nukkad-type intellectualism will be formulating the policies for education, economy and geo-politics for a country which has all the potential to appear as a model of democratic growth in a highly multicultural society. And, once again it appears that India will miss the bus because these ‘forces of nuisance’ are high-jacking the political space and replacing the rhetoric of development with that of hatred and revenge. Suddenly, the fresh breeze of change and development appears to be smelling of hatred and vengeance.

As a policy analyst, I prefer to call these extreme rightwing Hindutva elements, the ‘forces of nuisance’. In my explanation, also lies the rationale for immediately suppressing them with a heavy hand. These forces in terms of impact can only generate chaos and social disharmony. They do not have the ability to become Al-quaida or Taliban because the society in which they are operating is far too diverse and modern to succumb to their ideology. In the jargon of political thought, two words are often used i.e. ‘religious identity’ and ‘political outcomes’. Religious identity can lead to political outcomes like terrorism, legislative measures etc. but that can happen only in specific circumstances. The organizations like Al-quaida, Taliban, IS etc. have been able to form a vague notion of ‘religious identity’ and generate political outcomes like killing of religious minorities, legal and administrative changes and the formation of religious governments. But that has happened because of the aid of other fortuitous factors like weak state institutions, weak traditions of democracy, culture and traditions of theocracy and the prominent role of army in the functioning of the state.

None of the afore-mentioned conditions are prevailing in the case of India. The last 60 years of independent India may not be regarded as stellar in the terms of economic growth and governance , but despite all these blemishes India has been able to preserve its secular , democratic and multicultural character. And, that is, and must be regarded as one of the India’s major achievements. No doubt, our still-growing democracy has generated its own anti-theses like caste-driven politics, minority-appeasement politics, corruption etc. but still India has been able to create a broad framework in which people of diverse religious and cultural denominations can live ‘happily and not-so-happily’, with their friendships and enmities.  These so-called ‘forces of nuisance’ will not be able to dismantle this framework and hence will fail miserably in terms of their stated objectives and outcomes, but in the process they will generate sporadic instances of communal riots, immolation of the religious places of minority communities and a milieu of social hatred. These things will be blown out of proportion by the semi-literate media and opportunistic politicians, who have vowed to hate you for a ‘reason’ or ‘no-reason’. And, hence your energies, efforts and resources will be diverted from the agenda of development and growth to defend the government and yourself in the parliament. The worst impact of such useless actions will be felt in international media. In international media, where there is complete dearth of understanding prevails as regards India’s culture, society and religion, these ‘forces of nuisance’ are compared with devastating forces of history like Nazis  (one feels like laughing at such a comparison) and India’s image gets a big set-back.

Therefore, to conclude I strongly recommend that such forces of nuisance must be contained, suppressed and sidelined with an immediate effect. If this is not done, your name in the history will be remembered with reference to the riots of Gujarat only.

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