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Rohit Dhankar

From the manifesto:

Ram Mandir

BJP in its manifesto (page 41) declares “BJP reiterates its stand to explore all possibilities within the framework of the constitution to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.” (Emphasis added)

This is a pledge for “exploring” possibilities and “within the constitutional framework”, and not a commitment. And still it is communal in nature and goes against secularism. The issue is that the state has got nothing to do with the construction of temples or mosques. A political party when mentions this in its election manifesto is trying to garner votes in the name of religion and a government when tries to explore possibilities for construction of a temple is favouring a particular religion.

This is a divisive issue in Indian politics, BJP has used it before and still keeps using it.

Ram Setu

On the same page BJP declares “Ram Setu is a part of our cultural heritage and also of strategic importance due to its vast thorium deposits. These facts will be taken into consideration while taking any decision on ‘Sethu-Samudram Channel’ project.” (Emphasis added)

There is no evidence of what is called Ram Setu being a creation of humans. All evidence shows it is a natural formation. The connection with Rama and his Lanka Vijay is purely mythological, as most probably Ram himself is. Again, this is a communal agenda in favour of one religion (Hinduism). Arguments in connection with Ram Mandir apply here as well.

Ganga

The BJP says “River Ganga is a symbol of faith in India, and has a special place in the Indian psyche. It is Mukti dayini. …Pure water of the Ganga are thus essential for the spiritual as well as physical wellbeing of India.”

Cleaning Ganga is a laudable project. No one can fight with that. But it is laudable for economic and environmental reason. Connecting it with faith, mukti and spirituality in a manifesto is a communal move. The way Modi has talked of Ganga mata in the campaign and has participated in the Ganga Aarti after electoral victory certainly is a communal move to send signals to a certain section of Hindu community.

Cow and its Progeny

The manifesto declares that “Necessary legal framework will be created to protect and promote cow and its progeny.” All reasons given in the manifesto are economic. But the history of BJP and its handling of cow protection makes it plain that it is the “holy cow” that is being protected, not the useful animal that is important in the agricultural activities, for its milk, for its hide and for its meat. It is a not-so-cleverly disguised communal agenda.

Uniform Civil Code

BJP’s declared stand: “Article 44 of the constitution of India lists Uniform Civil Code as one of the Directive Principles of state policy. BJP believes that there cannot be gender equality till such time India adopts a Uniform Civil Code, which protects the rights of all women, and the BJP reiterates its stand to draft a Uniform Civil Code, drawing upon the best traditions and harmonizing them with the modern times.”

This is often attacked by liberals and so-called secularists and seen as something against Muslims. It seems to me that it is a good step and there is nothing communal about it. Having the same code for all citizens of a country is a laudable aim.

Civil codes of communities and religions which go against the rights of a democratic citizen will have to give way. Democracy is not a federation of religions; it is premised on the autonomy of individual in her personal life and setting one’s own life goals. Taking this right away from citizens in the name of religion or communitarian ethics abandons the very principle on with democracy rests.

Article 370

BJP’s stand on article 370 is seen as a communal move against Kashmiri Muslims. What BJP says is “BJP reiterates its stand on the Article 370, and will discuss this with all stakeholders and remains committed to the abrogation of this article.”

This is a complex affair. What exactly are the provisions of the said article is a matter of some exploration for me. The article refers back to other articles and without a study of all the references what exact impact it has on the state and its relationship with the rest of the country if not clear; that is: to me, as it is now.

However, it is clear from reading of the article 370 itself that it (i) gives a special status to J & K; (ii) it is considered temporary; (iii) can be abrogated though a specified constitutional process. Regarding the abrogation the article itself states: “(3) Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this article, the President may, by public notification, declare that this article shall cease to be operative or shall be operative only with such exceptions and modifications and from such date as he may specify: Provided that the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the State referred to in clause (2) shall be necessary before the President issues such a notification.”

So where is the problem if BJP is trying to discuss with all stake holders and attempting to abrogate the article? Why should it be considered objectionable and communal in a democracy? In my view BJP is on the right track on this issue.

Natural home for persecuted Hindus from other countries

The manifesto states “India shall remain a natural home for persecuted Hindus and they shall be welcome to seek refuge here.”

As it stand it clearly privileges Hindus and that is not secular, is clearly communal in this sense.

Pranav Goswami asked Modi in one of his interviews why only “persecuted Hindus” not persecuted Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims? Modi obfuscated on the question and said that his party uses the term “Hindu” as the Supreme Court defined it, ‘a way of life, and not as a religion’. Thus, according to him all ‘Indian origin” people who went or were taken to other countries and are being persecuted there now can come back and India will remain their natural home. If BJP modifies it in this sense, it ceases to privileged Hindus and becomes a secular principle of Indian state.

Then Modi further clarified that it does not apply to Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh; however, Hindus from these two countries are welcome. He did not clarify if Christians, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists from these counties can also find India their natural home if they are persecuted? If BJP accepts this position then I believe it could be justified. Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and Muslims who remained there at the time of partition or went there at that time consciously forfeited their Indian citizenship and their claim to it. I see no reason to extend this privilege to them now. He also said that at the time of partitions there were 31% Hindus in Bangladesh, but now there are about 7%; this indicated persecution. If his data are correct (I am not sure of that) and there is no other explanation, it points to persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh. Persecution of Hindus, Sikhs and Christians in Pakistan is no secret.

Therefore, BJP’s stand that (i) it will welcome all Indian origin people (replace “Hindu” in current version with “Indian origin”) if they are persecuted in their countries and seek asylum, (ii) they will welcome all Indian origin people but Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh, if they are persecuted. This makes sense to me. Point two above is considered very controversial and Indian intellectuals consider it non-secular and communal; I personally believe they are wrong and do not have good arguments to support their opinion.

But as the pledge in the manifesto stands today it is only for Hindus and therefore is not secular and is communal in nature.

From Modi’s campaign and speeches and acts

Bangladeshi’s will have to go

Modi declared in Assam and Bengal that Bangladeshi ‘infiltrators’ have to go back.

The Hindu on 9th May 14 published a condemnation of these remarks sent by SEHMAT and sighed by the who’s-who of Indian intelligentsia. They state “We the undersigned, are deeply disturbed by the reported remarks of the Prime Ministerial candidate of the NDA at an election rally in West Bengal that “infiltrators” from Bangladesh, belonging to a particular religious community, must be sent back. Apart from the sheer inhumanity of the remark, we fear that in a country in which every citizen does not possess documentary proof of citizenship, such a move would simply cause a general victimization of persons belonging to that particular religious community.”

Their reasons for condemnation seem to be three: (i) it is inhuman to send back people coming from other countries to seek livelihood, (ii) every Indian citizen does not possess proper identification papers and therefore such move will victimize Muslims, and (iii) that Indians are seeking to stay in various countries and we oppose political and other formations in those countries who want to send illegal immigrates back to India.

I find it very difficult to accept the argument that anyone seeking livelihood can enter a country of his/her choice without papers and illegally; and gains the right to live in that country by sheer force of his/her illegal entry. If it would not have come from such august body of intellectuals I would have called it plain silly. But authority itself is no argument and I know no justification for such a stand. If I accept this then I have to accept that Indians who enter other countries illegally have no right to stay there and the people of those counties are right when they want to send them back. We must accept this.

That leaves us with the point (ii) in the paragraph above. That every Indian citizen does not possess proper identification papers and therefore such move will victimise Muslims. This is difficult to deny given the present political and social climate of the country. But we must note two things; (1) this is a practical difficulty in implementation of the move and not an objection directly based on any ethical principle, and (2) acceptance of this practical problem as ‘unsolvable’ puts India in a very vulnerable position. This acceptance means that Muslims from Bangladesh can keep on coming in India and they will just remain here, as it is difficult to identify them. I wonder how the intellectuals can be so insensitive to the majority worry that this stand has changed demography of many border regions of the country. The suspicion of the majority community that some (not all) Muslims and some politicians make this identification difficult and arrange documents like ration cards etc. for some Bangladeshis can hardly be called unfounded. This is actually happening, and by denying such things intellectuals and opinion makers simply push people towards BJP mind-set.

Therefore, acceptance of the problem as unsolvable cannot be a permanent solution. We must find fool-proof methods of identifying infiltrator Bangladeshis and should not make the difficulty in identifying them a plea for letting them live in India. The so-called secular intellectuals are plain wrong here and lose their credibility by taking such positions.

Vishwanath darshan and Ganga Aarati after electoral victory

I have argued in one of my initial blog posts that an individual can be a deeply religious person and can discharge his duties as a judge, politician, bureaucrat or police officer without prejudice, upholding the state policy of secularism. So Modi if goes to thank Vishwanath or offer aarati to Ganga as an individual, it should be no concern of a citizen.

But Modi did not go there an individual. He went there as a Prime Ministerial candidate of a political formation and the political formation supported his visit by making arrangements and so on. If a Prime Minister of a country uses party or state resources and his visibility as a political leader to emphases rituals of any particular religion it is difficult to pass that act as his personal matter and having nothing to do with the secular nature of the state. In this sense Modi did not behave as a secular leader and is unlikely to do so in future.

The religious bias in BJP as per this analysis is clear; and as citizens we have to be vigilant about how it plays out in future. One hopes that the pressure of active citizenship will force BJP and Modi to shun these biases. But that could happen only if the intelligentsia and opinion makers themselves shed their biases against some and in favour of some other religious communities; so far their record has been really bad. Actually, hardly better than BJP but in the opposite direction. Hope they will see the light now as the BJP victory is at the least partly a result of their biased analysis.

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