India goes to polls this year. Amnesia about Gujarat 2002 and a media BJP hype with Narendra Modi as the candidate for prime minister who “get things done” makes immediate once again the threat of resurgent communalism in India. This is not to be taken lightly in the view of recent history.
With Narendra Modi as chief minister, Gujarat in 2002 underwent a well-planned pogrom that took the lives of 2000 people and made homeless over 100,000. Savagery unleashed upon the minority Muslim population saw kerosene-soaked people set on fire, women raped and mutilated on the streets, children tossed into fires. The authorities were complicit.
Modi’s party, the BJP, aided and abetted by the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), mobilized people in the name of Hinduism. Gujarat 2002 is consistent with the statement of the founder of the RSS, the patron group of the BJP. Their ideology as stated by their founding father incorporates divisiveness that bodes ill for any society: The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and languages, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture… in a word they must cease to be foreigners; Or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment— not even citizens’ rights”
Only two election cycles later, both of which the BJP lost, we are asked to “forgive-and-forget” the pogrom of 2002. People are in return promised that an economic success engineered in Gujarat by Modi will be applied nation-wide. Gujarat is to be a model for growth in India’s economy. Never mind that this much-touted “Gujarat Success” is marginally better than the average in other states of the country and is no departure from the current national paradigm of growth for India as a whole: growth for the few at the cost of many. Modi’s party, the BJP, rules in other states in India as well and the reports from those states are no more encouraging. BJP propaganda persists in deluding people with the promise of a bright economic future by a PM whose ideology and politics are imbued with hate-mongering and is certain to wreak havoc.
As in prior elections, the people of India may well see through the ‘Gujarat Shining’ motif once again, and the poll-seers in India proved wrong again.
Regardless, the prospect of a BJP victory in the elections is of grave concern to all who see secularism as an integral part of democracy worldwide. By the same token that we as US resident immigrants and minorities would not wish for the formation of a Christian state here, we are alarmed at the prospect of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in India that would further marginalize and threaten minorities there.
Our pledge to uphold secularism is therefore not only for the year’s election. It is for all time.