by Jyotirmaya Sharma
THEY WILL NOT COME FROM PAKISTAN, THEY ARE HERE IN THE FORM OF NARENDRA MODI AND HIS ZEALOTS
THE Supreme Court has asked the SIT to probe Narendra Modi’s role in the post- Godhra riots in Gujarat in 2002. But that will not still the chorus for Modi as a future national leader of the BJP. As it is, the timing and context of the Modi- for- PM demand is curious.
In part, it is admission that the BJP- led NDA will have to wait a few more years before making a bid for power.
But it also implies that the prime- minister- in- eternal anticipation and perpetual desperation, Lal Krishna Advani, has failed to capture the imagination of even his own flock.
Other than the obvious reasons, there is an obvious tactic at play here: the BJP hopes that Modi’s name as a future leader would actually help win some votes in these elections. It is an appeal to the highly voluble, if not sizeable, number of the Indian middle class, which has not merely discovered the simple joys of voting, but has the temerity to now reclaim the public space they have for so long spurned with mighty disdain.
It has two things in common with Modi. The first is a certain brand of vulgar impatience and haste, a hallmark of the mob as well as the tyrant, born out of a sense of self- proclaimed purity and righteousness. The other is a misplaced sense of aspiring for such indeterminate goals such as ‘ progress’ and ‘ development’, a chimera that leaves everyone out of the equation other than the sort of worthies who stood on a stage and argued for Modi’s elevation as prime minister.
There is, then, little difference between the two Aruns, Shourie and Jaitley, and Ambani, Mittal and Tata: they feel emboldened enough to suggest who the next prime minister ought to be without a care in the world for the democratic process to decide on such weighty issues. The message from them is: we know what is good for you. We represent the country because we produce wealth or facilitate in its production.
Apart from the cheerleaders for Modi, it would be instructive to look at the man himself in terms of three statements made recently. In the absurd debate regarding whether Manmohan Singh is a weak prime minister, Modi came up with a priceless statement. He dared the prime minister to hang Afzal Guru in order to prove his strength and establish his machismo.
There was a time when Gandhi shook a mighty empire through nonviolence and yet never abandoned fundamental moral principles in order to take on the British. He broke laws that were unjust, but understood the importance of laws as a guiding framework for any civilised society. Killing someone just to prove an imaginary idea of strength had no place in his moral universe.
Modi represents an alternative ‘morality’, which seeks to justify, albeit covertly, encounter killings in the name of swiftness and expediency.
This haste, too, is born out of a disdain for constitutional and legal procedures as well as from the self-appointed role of judging who the ‘enemy’ is and finding effective ways of dealing with such real and mythical enemies. It is a mechanical world of action and, in this instance, unequal and opposite reaction, untouched by norms of ethics and morality.
Modi’s disdain for the old and for children also springs from a corpus of ideas that are far removed from any acceptable version of the Indian ethos. The polarities represented by the ‘ budhiya’ and the ‘ gudiya’ remark comes from a 19th century European set of ideas that celebrated the useful, able- bodied, young, masculine, virile individual who could work in factories, contribute to development and progress.
This view found the old and the very young to be a burden on society, a universe far removed from a world that venerated a Vyasa, a Vashistha and a Bhisma, and found merit in the lives of a Dhruva and Prahalad. In this sense, Modi is a worthy inheritor of Golwalkar’s mantle and the only hope for the RSS. It was after all Golwalkar who categorically suggested that once an RSS worker grew old and infirm and ceased to be useful to the organisation, the best course left for him was to sit by the wayside, beg to keep body alive, and die. It is another matter that an old and infirm Golwalkar was looked after by the same organisation and his health became a priority for the RSS in the last years of his life. This accent on youth and machismo also was the very stuff that Hitler’s version of a fascist movement found its sustenance from and thrived on, peddling this skewed idea.
Lastly, Modi’s recent statement that he is ready to be hanged in public if charges against him regarding his complicity in the post- Godhra riots were to be proved is enormously important and is to be taken seriously.
Mussolini, the Italian fascist, was summarily executed by communist partisans and hung upside down.
The bodies of Mussolini and his mistress were then hung on meathooks from the roof of a petrol station and stoned by civilians. In this country, till such time that civilised values are still in place, people are not hung in public.
There is a rule of law, however flawed, that takes care of crimes and doles out punishment that affords a degree of dignity to even criminals.
Medieval forms of justice are no more in vogue in this country and will not be so till such time that the Indian people actually commit the grave error of allowing an authoritarian individual like Modi to assume the office of the prime minister.
Let us recap the three statements Modi has made in the past few months. These were about hanging a man pronounced guilty as a sign of strength, about old women and little girls playing with dolls, and about himself being hanged in public.
There is an uncanny resemblance in all the three to what we have known all along as the Taliban’s preferred way of meting out justice. We frown on these kinds of barbaric acts and the Sangh Parivar often implies that there is a relation between these forms of barbarism and the religious affiliation of those who indulge in these acts.
In rightly expressing our moral indignation against the Taliban, we forget that the Taliban will not enter this country through our northern borders but is already present in an indigenous version in the form of Modi and his supporters.
The Taliban of today is only a mirror image of the irrational and mindless rage of Ashwatthama, the son of Drona in the epic Mahabharata. Modi is the inheritor of Ashwatthama’s rage. In the epic, Ashwatthama had to ultimately pay for his deeds. But before that he wrecked destruction and brought sorrow to countless people. Is Modi’s future and fate the same as that of Drona’s misguided son?
The author teaches politics at University of Hyderabad