Where the mind is with fear

TM Krishna | Updated on September 06, 2019 Published on September 06, 2019

Face it: For many, Modi is a saviour — a knight in shining armour   -  THE HINDU / SANDEEP SAXENA

It is now 100 days since Narendra Modi emerged as the unquestioned mass leader of India. For many, he is a saviour — a knight in shining armour — who will rid India of its evils and undo decades of misrule, unfair governance and negligence since Independence. But what does he have to show for it?

May 23, 2019. Many of us believed the social and economic realities surrounding us would impact the extent of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s win in the general elections. But the opposite happened; Narendra Modi came back with a victory quite unprecedented in the recent history of Indian elections.

It just cannot be denied that Modi has a large section of Indians under his spell. For many, he is a saviour — a knight in shining armour — who will rid India of its evils and undo what they believe was decades of misrule, unfair governance and negligence since Independence. The BJP and its well-oiled public relations machinery have, in a clinical and efficient manner, captured the minds of the people by tapping into the fears of the Hindu majority.

It is now 100 days since Modi emerged as the unquestioned mass leader of India. But what does he have to show for it? A month before the elections, a member of a Sangh Parivar think tank belittled me on a television show for pointing out that unemployment was at its worst in decades. Now we all know this is a fact, a problem not just in one sector but across the spectrum. A senior businessman, in fact, told me that he was shocked to see everyone seemingly going on with life as if nothing had happened when the economy was at its nadir.

Economically, what we are witnessing is just a continued slide under the Modi government. It is also true that even industrialists are afraid to speak bravely; they have been tiptoeing around the issue with just gentle warnings. Barring a few who are close to the establishment, it seems that even the mighty are afraid to take Modi on, even if doom is staring at us.

Members of the Opposition are jumping ship, some going to the extent of singing a tune similar to that of the BJP’s. The Opposition is not just in a state of disarray, it is in tatters. My own hope that regionalism would play a major role in the 2019 polls was negated. Except for the DMK in Tamil Nadu, no other regional party can really claim to have stood up to the Modi challenge. Mamata Banerjee seems to have pressed the self-destruct mode and, in her hastiness, is clearing the way for the BJP in Bengal.

The Modi government’s planned alienation of Muslims has only gained momentum and this is evident from what we hear from many members of the BJP. The criminalisation of instant triple talaq was not so much about empowering Muslim women as it was about putting Muslims in their place. The anti-Muslim trump card consolidates Hindus and Christians. We often forget that Islamophobia is as pervasive among Christians as it is within the Hindu community and the BJP is well aware of this. The enemy has been targeted and the fear instilled deep inside. Now it is only a question of sustaining the storyline. The Opposition has, almost entirely, been painted as “friends of Muslims”. With their own chequered relationship with the community, they are unable to respond with conviction. The Muslims, abandoned, do not know where to go. Therefore, some feel it is better to just accept, conform and go with the flow.

If there is any social group that has sustained political and social energy against the Modi regime, it is the Dalits. They have tried to consolidate in many parts of the country and, for me, the future of Indian liberal politics and our democracy lies in their hands.

The BJP unabashedly promotes upper-caste Hinduism and every religious visual drama enacted by Modi entrenches this mural. The castes that are socially mobile also aspire to this form of cultural identification. Displaying this kind of religiosity with élan and power has made Modi more attractive. He symbolises muscle, and is feared. What more can anyone ask for?

The undemocratic way in which Modi and (home minister) Amit Shah acted on Article 370 made it clear that they do not care about constitutionality or humaneness. We are now witnessing something close to military rule in Kashmir. Modi has used national security, sovereignty and nationalism as a weapon. He has imported from the US the selfish and ugly form of surrendering to the country, which I like to call flag-ism. All of us have to swear our allegiance to it. But what is demanded is not allegiance but fear mongering.

I was asked to write about what makes Modi tick and why he has so much acceptance. I think the answer is in that one word I have often repeated in this piece: Fear. He has entrenched fear into all of us. Fear has been triggered, recalled, retold and asserted as reality. The majority population today believes that it has been cheated of its culture and religion. With only one idea of the Hindu on display, many Hindus are embracing it to fight the “enemy”. Members of civil society have been branded social evils and names such as urban Naxal, anti-national, and pseudo-secular are now common usages. Feminism is looked upon as an alien construct that has no place in Indian culture. Dalit movements that question Hindu practices have been violently put down and activists arrested. Many of the country’s television channels do not deserve to be called members of the fourth estate; they are platforms of violence and hate.

What makes all this so insidious is the manner in which Modi remains untarnished by all the ugliness that his government and party are unleashing. He rarely responds to concerns and walks as though he has solved the entire puzzle of India. The government has brought out the worst in us as human beings — that part which craves revenge and revels in brutality. Hence his nonchalance to all criticism is perceived as a sign of a determined, authoritarian hero.

Fear, hate, anger and division give Narendra Modi and his team all the strength they need. The question we have to ask ourselves is whether India will survive this onslaught.


TM Krishna is a Carnatic singer, writer and Magsaysay award winner

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Published on September 06, 2019
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