AIJAZ ZAKA SYED
Amid all this song and dance about Hindutva’s love for the Holy Cow and promising death and damnation to all those who dare to see it as just another animal, few seem to notice the fact that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has been crowned as the world’s biggest exporter of beef.
Isn’t this a hypocrisy of the highest order? But then what’s new. The Parivar (the Hindutva family) has taken the old fashioned duplicity to a whole new level, turning it into a fine art. Coupled with deceit and brazenness, it is a deadly weapon and is daily used against unsuspecting victims like Mohammed Akhlaq, who was beaten to death in the name of cow, less than 30 miles from the prime minister’s residence in New Delhi.
Yet we haven’t heard a single word condemning the murder of the middle-aged farmer and father of an Indian Air Force corporal from Dadri. The bizarre murder has shaken India and horrified the world. While we Indians are all too familiar with this cynical politics over food, the rest of the world still cannot wrap its head around the fact that a human life has been squandered over something as humble as a piece of meat.
It may have been just one man who was killed in Dadri but it felt as if we were back in time, in the madness and bloodletting of the last century after the destruction of Babri Masjid in 1992. It was déjà vu all over again.
Commentator Tunku Varadarajan, former editor of Newsweek, believes that the Dadri incident, or “accident” as Modi’s Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma described it, may be as watershed an event as the demolition of the historic Ayodhya mosque.
“When historians sit in judgment of India 50 years from now, the murder of Mohammad Akhlaq will be seen as an event on a par with the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya in 1992 as a national moral nadir. Personally, I’m inclined to see it as worse,” Varadarajan wrote in Indian Express.
Yet the prime minister, who endlessly tweets about issues of national and international import, has yet to take note of what happened under his nose in Dadri, let alone visit the traumatized family which has now been forced to leave the town that had been its home for generations.
Sixteen months ago, he took oath to uphold the Constitution and protect all citizens of India regardless of their faith, as Vice President Hamid Ansari pointedly reminded. Modi was elected to the highest office in the land, ignoring his notorious baggage and in the vain hope that he has reformed.
Fellow travelers such as MJ Akbar, who repeatedly and severely censured the man from Gujarat, were so taken in by his charm offensive that they hitched their wagon to the new star on the political firmament.
I know of many Muslim intellectuals and politicians who sincerely believed in the community making a fresh start and giving Modi an opportunity to redeem himself. Clearly though a leopard cannot change its spots. So with each passing day, India is fast mutating itself into the Akhand Bharat of saffron dreams.
Modi may have been elected on the much touted promise of development by an aspirational, predominantly young India. However, he appears to be driven by only one agenda — the same agenda that has driven the Parivar for nearly a century. That of turning India into the supremacist Hindu Rashtra, in which the majority has all the rights and minorities are reduced to the status of second class citizens, sans their rights, dignity and freedom, as Jews had been under the Fuhrer.
At the height of the 2014 Elections, yours truly had suggested that by the time Modi was done with India or India was done with Modi, it would no longer be recognizable as the vibrant, diverse democracy that it has always been. It has been merely 16 months since he came to power and the land that one grew up in already looks unsettlingly unfamiliar.
If Gandhi and other greats of the Independence movement were to come back today they would have a hard time identifying the India of their dreams. Is this the country they fought for?
If the coldblooded killing of Akhlaq at the hands of friends and neighbors he had grown up with has come as a rude wake-up call and sober reminder of the reality of the new India, what has followed is even more bizarre and disturbing.
Instead of being ashamed or defensive about the killing, Hindutva groups, senior ministers in Modi’s Cabinet and BJP lawmakers have gone on the offensive, from blaming the victim to stepping up attacks across the country in defense of ‘gau mata.’
So a week after the attack, the terrified family of Akhlaq has been forced to leave their ancestral home and village and move to Delhi while worthies like Yogi Adityanath, a five-time BJP MP mind you, and Sadhvi Prachi, another honorable minister in Modi’s Cabinet, have been going around Dadri, offering “all possible help including guns” to “harassed Hindus!”
Home Minister Rajnath Singh pontificates with a straight face that the Dadri killing should not be ‘communalized.’ Of course, the killing of an innocent human being by breaking into his home in front of his family is a totally benign act and so is the subsequent terrorizing of the family and Muslims across the country. The problem arises only when the media sees and reports it as communal violence! Goebbels would be proud at the saffron antics.
It is of no consequence to the Home Minister or his boss that the whole country has been communally polarized with increasing threats and terrorizing of religious minorities. One has never seen fellow Muslims and Indians of other persuasions more worried about the shape of things to come. What kind of country our future generations will be inheriting? It’s truly frightening.
You have to be blind as a bat to not see who is responsible for this state of affairs. As Pratap Bhanu Mehta courageously argues in Indian Express, “The blame for this has to fall entirely on Modi. Those who spread this poison enjoy his patronage. This government has set a tone that is threatening, mean-spirited and inimical to freedom. Modi should have no doubt that he bears responsibility for the poison that is being spread by the likes of Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma and Tarun Vijay. The threat to India’s soul emanates from the center of power, almost nowhere else.”
Through his campaign trail speeches in 2014 repeatedly accusing the Congress of heralding a ‘Pink revolution,’ Modi sowed the seeds of this cultivated national hysteria against Muslims, as if only they have a taste for meat. Ironically, some of the biggest beef/meat exporters happen to be Hindus like those owning Al Kabeer. And the biggest beneficiaries of the surge in beef exports over the past year and half have been the PM’s corporate cronies. But then as Gopal Krishna Gandhi, the grandson of the Mahatma puts it, this had never been about Hindutva’s love for the cow but with their pathological hatred of Muslims.
So for all his powwows with foreign investors and IT giants inviting them to ‘Make in India,’ what the PM is presiding over is the ‘Unmaking of India,’ in the words of author Nayantara Sahgal, Nehru’s niece who returned her prestigious Sahitya Akademi award this week, in protest over Dadri and other crimes. The greatest threat to India and the Idea of India is from within.