Friday, 27 April 2018

The 'incident': Nothing but political

The Kathua ‘incident’ (to quote the prime minister) was not in a vacuum. The assumption of the perpetrators was that impunity was at hand, since the victim was Muslim. This impression of theirs has been long in the making. Muslims have been fair game over the past four years, victims of lynchings for eating beef or love jihad. Earlier, many have been put away for long periods for alleged participation in terror bombings, even in instances of bombings for which the Hindu perpetrators have been identified and, indeed, owned up to. Most saffron terrorists have been let off by courts lately. Those who led mob violence in Gujarat have also been left. Mr. Modi’s selective verbalizing suggested to the perpetrators that the law can be winked at. Finally, the anti-Rohingya policy of the government, with its eddies in Jammu, where a set of Rohingya Muslims are refugees, emboldened them further, making them believe that the anti-Muslim sentiment would translate in support for their supposed endeavour to drive Muslim nomads from the vicinity.
Thus, the perpetrators of the Kathua ‘incident’ believed they could get away with it. They almost did, in that a coalition partner in the state government, the BJP, far right organisations, some in the community and the lawyers’ association provided them cover. However, that they were finally caught tells that there is a reversibility in the tide that manufactured this impression in their minds. The social media backlash, largely a middle class revolt against the BJP, prompted Mr. Modi to break his silence. In crisis management mode since he characterized the dastardly deeds, when taken alongside the ‘incident’ at Unnao, as ‘incidents’. Panicked, he has since gone on to try and take the political sting out of the episode, calling from foreign soil for such ‘incidents’ not to be politicised.
But, as recounted at the outset here briefly, the ‘incident’ itself is an outcome of the politics of the last two decades, that witnessed the rise of Mr. Modi and the manufacture of the wave that brought him to power. The buck must stop with him. It is not time to shift the goal posts on politicization when the tide is turning. But Mr. Modi can be expected to say that; after all it is a fight for another five years at 7 Race Course Road.
It needs little elaboration as to how Mr. Modi bears moral responsibility. As leader of his devotees, he bears a measure of responsibility for their conduct. After all, the two state ministers who resigned from the state government for supporting the perpetrators were from his party and the Hindu Ekta Manch is part of the saffron brigade of which he is the prime champion. But the more significant part of the responsibility – which this op-ed dwells on in some detail further - owes to the manner his elevation from Gujarat to Delhi has led to what is now seen as a national ethical and moral crisis. Devotees appear to be finally de-mesmerising themselves. That it takes such ‘incidents’ to awaken them speaks for the depths India has fallen and is liable to fall in case of another Modi term.
Equally bad ‘incidents’ heralded Modi’s arrival on the scene, when he – in his reading of the Gujarat carnage – could not stop it. Even so, it was as much his abdication of Raj Dharma as the complicity of his administration and the police under him in keeping perpetrators from the gallows that set the tone for the moral decline. Even if the judiciary appears to have closed the inquiries, the jury is still out on a string of incidents thereafter, be it the killing of that state’s home minister or the series of encounter killings of Muslims supposed out to avenge the carnage by targeting Mr. Modi. This helped his constituents rally round him and made for a national profile for Mr. Modi.
The vilification of Muslims across India proceeded apace. As it has turned out, the bombings then attributed to Muslims, such as at Malegaon, were found to have saffron fingerprints. The idea behind this strategy of the saffron combine was to consolidate the Hindu vote. Mr. Modi emerged as the savior, outflanking the comatose Congress government. Its foreign policy dividend was to project Pakistan as the ‘Other’. This accounts for the BJP in opposition holding the Congress led United Progressive Alliance’s government hostage over its reaching out to Pakistan, twice over: before and after 26/11. The moral decline beginning with the lack of traction for Gujarat carnage cases, persisted with the wide acceptability of the orchestrated notion of Muslim provenance of terror. The orchestration of this canard was by the Hindutva aligned think tanks and closet cultural nationalists in the strategic community, who are now in the open and ever willing to stand up and be counted on prime time. Some have billets in the national security establishment, including one at its helm currently.
Since Mr. Modi’s coming to power in Delhi, the departure from ethical governance has only widened. As if recognizing the writing on the wall, the judiciary has fallen in line, the latest evidence being its decisions in favour of Maya Kodnani on the Gujarat carnage case and for Swami Aseemanand over the Mecca Masjid blast. Full blown political capital is made from the reactivation of the Line of Control. The phone has been kept off the hook with Pakistan since the Pathankot airfield terror attack. It is another matter that the attack itself has doubtful origin in that there remain unexplained connected happenings with it, such as the wandering of the Gurdaspur police chief in the vicinity of the border seemingly to escort the infiltrating terrorists to a prospective target. The mystery has even been acknowledged in the book of an acolyte of the former defence minister from within the strategic community, Securing India: The Modi Way.  For their part, the Kashmiris have yet again been pushed back a couple of decades.
It is easy to see that the same strategy that brought Modi to power – by creating a Hindu vote bank against an internal and external ‘other’ – continues at work while the BJP is in power. This implies that the moral responsibility for the outcome rests with the ruling party, its supporting political formations, and devotees willing to suspend disbelief. They are culpable for such a situation having come to pass. Since the ruling party has profited politically from this, it is a political matter, howsoever much the perpetrators in individual ‘incidents’ are equally personally liable.
Unfortunately for the perpetrators, the fresh breeze afoot got them. There is enough time for this breeze to pick up and gather into a storm, to blow the rulers back into the fringe whence they came. It is no wonder Mr. Modi wants the traces from the events over the past two decades – the principal one of which has been the Modi wave - to be wiped clean from the ‘incident’.