Narendra Modi and His Vision of Hindu India


Is this something that had its origin in Nehruvian centralised unitary India as well

Narendra Modi led his Hindu supremacist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) to a second term victory in the 2019 Indian federal election. It was not a presidential election but almost looked like one – the election  centred around one man and one man only;it was Narendra Modi. The party he represented almost merged with his persona – the two became almost inseparable.The people who were voting for him, they were voting for the messiah who would lead them to create a Hindu state in India.

Out of 543 federal parliamentary lower house seats, the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) secured 353 seats while the BJP alone bagged 303 seatsin the federal election of 2019.  The party won an absolute majority in the federal parliament for a second consecutive term. An estimated 600 million people voted in the election out of an estimated 900 million voters; of whom 87 million were first time voters. The opposition Congress won 52 seats and its dynastic leader Rahul Gandhi lost his family seat at Amethi in Uttar Pradesh which he has held since 2004 despite his temple runs and wearing colours on his forehead during the campaign.But he won the seat of Wayanand in Kerala where Muslims constituted 40 percent of the electorate. This is the first time Rahul Gandhi contested two seats in his political career. Despite Rahul Gandhi’s public display of Hinduness, he and his party’s publiccommitmentsto Hindu causes including cow protection, yet from the Hindu lens, Rahul Gandhi is seen as a Dhongi(fake) Hindu while Narendra Modi is seen as the Asli (the real) Hindu. In effect, his party banned cow slaughter and promising commercial production of Goumutra(cow urine), Goushalas(cow shelters) in Madhaya Pradesh province where the party is in power now. In this competitive game of Hinduness, Rahul Gandhi will always fall much short of Modi, the BJP has already captured the imagination of Hindus to create the saffron(the symbol of Hindutva) path for India.

The BJP now styles itself as the biggest political party in the world with 110 million members. The party’s membership doubled since Modi took over the leadership of the party. He turned it into a formidable political machine to win voters confidence. Modi’s vision of a Hindu India with a direct exclusionary note for Muslims seemed to have fired up voters. But in reality, Muslims have been living at the fringe of the Hindu majoritarian state that India emerged as in 1947 for quite some time, much before Modi appeared in the scene. This was well documented in the Sachar Committee, the Ranganath Mishra Commission and the Kundu Committee reports that adequately reveal, with evidence, that Muslims have been consistently seen as one of the most marginalised groups in India, proving that the so-called Nehruvian secularism and inclusiveness have been at best lip-deep, devoid of any substance.

Gandhi was not much different either. During the India’s independence movement he also infused Hinduism as national identity that made many Muslims feel excluded. Even the great Bengali Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore felt quite uncomfortable with Gandhi’s mixing of religion with politics. In fact, the Congress-run provincial governmentsin the British Colonial India in the 1930s were regarded by many as a precursor to the emerging Hindu Raj to replace the British Raj in post-British India.

Emphasis on Hindi alone as the national language further added to their apprehension that was not totally unfounded, as in reality in post independent India Urdu,a widely spoken and written language in India has practically decayed into oblivion. Many argue that the decay of Urdu is symptomatic of the emasculation of the cultural and linguistic forms of Indian Muslim identity.

Recent rise of the BJP has simply and more brazenly furthered the Hindu supremacy and political marginalisation of Muslims that has its origin in 1947. It is just that with Modi’s 2019 thumping election victory, persecution of Muslims by the BJP supporters has achieved an open space and is occurring with impunity. For example, Al Jazeera reports that within hours of declaration of the election results, Muslims were attacked by BJP supporters, stripped of their prayer caps and forced to shout slogans praising Hindu gods in various places as a part of celebrationof Modi’s victory.

Hate crimes against Muslims have been on the rise where many Muslims have been physically attacked for suspicion of eating beef and some have been arrested under the National Security Act for the same “crime”. Human Rights Watch, an NGO reports that during the last five years more than 40 Muslims have been lynched by the cow vigilantes.

Hindu hate-crimes against Muslims did not confine themselves to cows only. An8-year-old Muslim girl in Kashmir was gang raped by three Hindu men inside a temple over a course of four days and then murdered.  Once the incidence became public, three police officers helped in destroying the evidence and two ministers belonging to the ruling BJP came out in public supporting the accused.

Apparently, this act of barbarity was deliberately carried out to create fear among the minority Muslims, to drive them out of the locality. Human right groups in India have also repeatedly claimed that Muslims in India and other religious minority groups face increasing levels of violence.

As I said before that although attacks on Muslims have become more open and harsh in recent times these are nothing new. For example, Sanjay Gandhi during his mother Indira Gandhi’s prime ministership razed down Turkoman Gate in Old Delhi the very poorest of people in Delhi lived and the majority of these were Muslims, seriously jeopardising their livelihood and depriving them of their shelter.

Although none of Modi’s 2014 election commitments have been met and in fact, were worsened by his policy of currency demonetisation, rising corruption and poor economic performance confidence in him of the majority Hindus seemed to have not decreased but increased – in 2019 election he and his party won with a huge margin. This is mainly because of his Hindu supremacist nationalist policy, a policy that promises to make India a Hindu state, freed of Muslims and this is a policy that majority Hindus seem to subscribe. Furthermore, as this policy that needed a strong and ruthless leader and given his Gujrat background where he presided over massacre of Muslims and revealed his strong commitment to a unitary Hindu India, Modi fitted the criterion fully. Sadly, the secularist Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, the great grandson of Nehru also remained silent on the Gujrat pogrom during the election campaign though not missing the opportunity to apologiseto the Sikhs for the massacre of Sikhs that took place in the wake of his Grandmother Indira Gandhi’s assassination. BJP’s Hindutva India seemed to be carrying the day.

The most disturbing aspect of surge in anti-Muslim sentiment in India is the RSS, the militant right-wing group that is passionately anti-Muslim. This is the group that is modelled along the Italian Fascist black shirt wield real power. They espouse India as a Hindu state, and thus continues to demand changing the Indian constitution from secular to sectarian. Modi is a member of this organisation and so are most of his ministers and members of the parliament that belong to his party, BJP.Another deeply worrying fact is that the RSS has penetrated every institutions of the state including the army, judiciary, state security apparatuses, universities and many others and this does not augur well for neither an inclusive nor a democratic India.

Let us return to the moot question – has Modi’s brand of sectarian politics is something that has come unexpectedly?Possibly, not – centralised unitary concept of India (also always subscribed by the Congress) has been inherently problematic and suffered from several conceptual challenges more particularly, the notion of prevalence of the will of the majority over the minority.  In fact, Nehru’s adherence to centralised unitary India led to the suppression of demand for self-determination of Kashmiris. So much so that Kashmir is now a fully-fledged militarised zone and torture has become the principal instrument to maintain control of thestate.Modi and his party may have simply extended and deepened the rule of the majority over the minority by spreading Islamophobia, which is the core element of the Hindutva Hindu supremacist ideology.

Indeed notion of a centralised India with a unitary identity is always going to be problematic.

Nehru’s the discovery of India, a combination of half-baked history and propaganda that claimed that ’’dream of unity has occupied the mind of India since the dawn of civilisation’’ is more of a rhetoric than reality. For example,the noted Indian historian RomilaThapar pointed out that the modern idea of India was essentially a British colonial construct. Before the British the South Asian Peninsula was composed of a large number of obdurate kingdoms and principalities completely devoid of any sense of oneness.Even the term Hindustan was coined by the Persians in ancient times referring to the land beyond the Indus, the term which the Mughals used during their reign.

Thus, an Indian identity requires an ideological blue print that supersedes or overrides its diversities or a blueprint that recognizes diversities in broader unity.Modi has chosen the former.

The blue print that BJP is aiming to advance- a centralised unitary Hindu national identity is inherently problematic as it aims to amalgamate even within Hinduism the conflated caste, linguistic and culturally differing identities. Outside Hinduism, it tries to either eliminate or subjugate other religious and ethnic minorities especially the Muslims that are in large numbers. Therefore, the question that must be asked is given these intractable diversities should India be drumming up the notion of a monolithic Hindu India that can only foment more xenophobia, deepen mutual hatred and at the end, pull apart the communities and not unite, is in the best interest of a unified but a diverse India?

Muhammad Mahmood is an economist and a political analyst, can be reached at: [email protected]


Join Our News Letter



Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News