First Person | For India’s Sake

For a nation as vast as India, we need a leader who takes pride in its diversity

Ghazala WahabGhazala Wahab

Recently, a European, a representative of a defence company doing business with India for many decades, asked me if I thought that Narendra Modi’s ascension to the Prime Minister’s seat would really be bad for the minorities. He knows that I belong to what is still a minority community in India, despite whatever the RSS and its cohorts may fear.

In the UPA II government, defence business, which primarily means imports, had hit the roadblock caused by a sense of ennui. No substantive amendments were brought into the defence procurement procedure policy (DPP), which the defence ministry tweaked slightly every two years and presented as the new DPP. The policy on offsets remained ham-handed. The amendments which were meant to correct previous limitations were not implemented with a retrospective effect, implying that the contracts signed before the amendments would still be governed by faulty regulations. Decisions on procurement programmes, even after the final selection have been dragged with the signing of several crucial contracts being held back. And though the 26 per cent cap on FDI in defence was removed, a new caveat of approval on a case to case basis was added.

Given this, the mood in the global defence industry has been of gloom. One of the things that have been strengthening their resolve of staying put in the Indian market is the belief that things will change dramatically once Modi becomes Prime Minister. The local PR firms which handle communication for these global companies have been assuaging their anxieties by three magic words: Let Modi Come.

Indian industry associations like Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (FICCI) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) have been chanting the same mantra.

With this background, I was surprised at the question asked by this European seller of weapons. Honestly, why should he care? I started to reply to him flippantly, making light of the question, but even as I laughed, I realised that I was being unfair to the sincerity of his question; that I really needed to think before I replied, because actually I hadn’t thought about it. I have simply been following election news with a strangely detached interest, as if I have been watching a long-running soap opera, the outcome of which will not affect me.

Will Modi really be bad for the minorities? I think Modi will be as good or bad for the minorities as anyone else. In India, politics is opportunistic and without a vision; and the secular-communal divide at the political level is occasion-specific. Of course, there are secular-minded politicians who do not have religious prejudices; just as there are communal-minded politicians who perpetuate intolerance. But often the politics that they conduct does not reflect their personal predilections.

Yet, I am chary of Modi-reign. I believe he will not be good for the country; for the idea of India. Modi, and people of his ilk (the RSS and its offshoots), represent a concept of an Indian nation which is the complete opposite of what people like me (and I suppose the majority) believe India is and ought to be. For me, India is not a monolith deity to which I have to surrender my thinking, my individuality and my personal goals. It is the sum-total of all the people who live here, with their different languages, cultures, religions, cuisines, customs, aspirations, sexualities, strengths and weaknesses. Just as there is no one ‘type’ of India, there is no one type of Indian nationalism.

However, Modi cannot understand this because having been trained in the RSS’ school of exclusivism, his idea of India is non-inclusive. For them, nationalist Indians must fit the RSS ideal, which incidentally, also insist that all Indians must accept their Hindu lineage. Having sworn his life to the RSS, Modi would certainly have taken the RSS pledge, part of which says, ‘To make the Hindu rashtra independent by protecting Hindu dharma, Hindu sanskriti and Hindu society.’ It doesn’t even need to be pointed out how dangerous this can be.

Since a nation of RSS’ imagination does not exist historically, it has been toiling away to invent one. The thousands of RSS-run schools teach Indian history invented by it, in which the Hindus and Muslims have been historical antagonists. In the states governed by the BJP, all government schools teach this distorted version of history, from which a period of nearly 1,000 years (Muslim reign under various dynasties) has been lopped-off and a very overt ‘Hinduisation’ of public spaces has been going on.

That Modi has devoted his life to the cause of the RSS cannot be doubted because as a true foot-soldier, he sacrificed his family very early in life. In RSS, there is no place for women and family, as they tend to ‘feminise’ the individuals, whereas the organisation’s work demands ‘masculinity’. This perhaps explains the need Modi has felt to brag about his 56-inch chest to reinforce his masculinity.

What is most alarming is that all these diabolical ideas are being couched in a narrative of economic development, which is mythical at best. Innumerable articles have appeared on the fault-lines of the so-called Gujarat model, panning it as non-inclusive. But even if one were to accept that Modi’s election will improve the market sentiment and will help business, the fact is economic growth is not the measure of a nation’s health; the state of its people is.


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