Will Modi uphold pluralism?
Kuldeep Nayar: Will Modi Uphold Pluralism? it was an emotional outburst. And I felt assured when he said after becoming India’s Prime Minister that he would take along with him all the 125 crore Indians on the path to development.
WHEN Narendra Modi broke down during the election campaign while hailing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a pro-Hindu outfit, as his mother, I thought it was an emotional outburst. And I felt assured when he said after becoming India’s Prime Minister that he would take along with him all the 125 crore Indians on the path to development.
But as the party unfolds its programme, I find that it is only a cover-up of the divisive strategy that the RSS has formulated. Modi projects an image of unbiased person, while the BJP-cum-RSS takes steps to dilute pluralism. The RSS is already posting its trusted men as members of different commissions or in key positions. The youth from the cadres are being recruited for lower assignments. Since bureaucracy tilts in the direction in which the wind blows, the BJP and the RSS are finding no resistance in implementing their agenda.
Sharad Pawar, former Agriculture Minister, who was also the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, is justified in his remark that after the BJP’s victory, communalism is beginning to be visible all over. And this is only in the first fortnight of Modi’s government. It is yet to run the full course of five-year term. What happened in Pune, the most liberal city in Maharashtra, indicates the forces which have run amuck. An extremist Hindu group killed Mohsin Sheikh, a 28-year-old IT manager, following the posting of derogatory photographs of Shivaji and Bal Thackerey, founder of extremist Shiv Sena. Mohsin was a suspect, with no evidence and proof.
True, the BJP condemned the murder. But this was an ideal opportunity for Prime Minister Modi to assure the Muslims, feeling insecure, that his government would see to it that the perpetrators were brought to book quickly. Even when specifically requested for a word of sympathy for the victim’s families, Modi kept quiet.
This attitude should not come as a surprise. As Gujarat Chief Minister in 2002 when more than 200 Muslims were killed with the complicity of the administration, including the police, he never expressed regret. In fact, Modi threw at the face of criticism a clean chit he got from a magistrate court at home. Till today he has not said sorry. His regret at the murder in Pune would have gone a long way to assuage the feelings of Muslims and strengthen the idea of India based on the concept of pluralism. People like me want to assure the Muslim community, roughly 15 to 16 crore, that it has nothing to fear because India follows the constitution which guarantees to every citizen equality before the law. There are courts, the media and liberal voices which are on the side of the Muslims, if the community becomes a target. This was seen when the Babri Masjid was demolished and the Gujarat anti-Muslim riots took place.
Those who have asked for Article 370 giving a special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir are the same elements which are anti-Muslim. Article 370 is as old as the Constitution, more than 65 years. But since Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim majority state, they have found the atmosphere during the Modi regime conducive to challenge the state’s status. They do not know the history; nor are they interested in finding out the facts.
When the British paramountcy lapsed in August 1947, the choice before roughly 560 princely states was either to integrate with India or go with the newly constituted Pakistan, taking into consideration the religion of the majority of subjects. The ruler could stay independent if he so desired. Jammu and Kashmir’s ruler Maharaja Hari Singh belatedly joined the Indian union even though the state’s majority population was Muslims. My reading is that Kashmir would have gone to Pakistan if it had been patient. But it first sent tribals and then the regular forces to annex the state. The maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession in favour of India to get its forces to stop the murders. He transferred only three subjects—Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications—to India.
The state retained other subjects. Article 310 is the codification of that understanding. If the Union of India wants more subjects, it is for Jammu and Kashmir to decide because it joined the Union on that condition. The Union cannot have more subjects without the state’s consent. Therefore, the RSS which has propelled the demand for the abolition of Article 370 is acting illegally.
In fact, things have now come to such a pass that the settlement has to have consent of three parties—India, Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir. If a referendum were to be held today, the valley of Kashmir would vote for an independent state. Jammu with the majority of Hindus would like to integrate with India and the Ladakh, with the Buddhists’ majority, would want to have the status of a union territory directly under New Delhi. All these considerations have made the problem intractable. In any case, the RSS should not play politics when it claims to be a cultural organization. I am reminded of the ban imposed on it on January 30, 1948, after Nathu Ram Godse, an RSS man, assassinated Mahatma Gandhi. Then in 1949 when negotiations in response to the appeals from the RSS to lift the ban led to an agreement between the then Home Minister Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel and RSS in which the latter gave an undertaking that “RSS will not engage in political activity” and that “RSS will engage only in cultural activities.”
But then Patel, not satisfied with the RSS undertaking, demanded that it incorporate the promise not to engage in political activities in their (Sangh’s) constitution, to seal the agreement and to freeze RSS permanently from political activities. That was in 1949 and subsequent to that, the government lifted the ban on the organization. However, in a shocking betrayal, the RSS led by its sarsanghchalak chief, Mohan Bhagwat, indulged in aggressive political activity from June 2013 in efforts to foist Modi, formerly an RSS pracharak, in the post of Prime Minister of India. The result is before you.