The bubbling cauldron

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The Narendra Modi government may have embarked on its development agenda with a lot of fanfare, but we are also hearing a parallel Hindutva agenda being flagged. Prime Minister Modi, as the man in charge, has to come down on this heavily, as just sporadic gestures may not be enough to bell this cat.

The Narendra Modi government won a convincing majority in the parliamentary elections held in May 2014, and assumed office riding on a plank that included inter alia, development, bringing back black money stashed abroad, ending corruption, doing away with red tape and so on.

However, nearly seven months down the line, there seems to be a marked shift in focus with many of the top leaders of the BJP, the main component of the NDA, singing the Hindutva tune and embarking on exercises that could dent the country’s secular image severely. Adding fuel to the fire are the various constituents of the Sangh Parivar, who having been sufficiently emboldened with the installation of a right wing government in office, have deemed it fit to unleash a religious conversion drive under the nomenclature Ghar wapsi, and have been quietly going about their job in right earnest, with the government turning a Nelson’s eye.

A columnist cynically observed that since those who left the ghar (home) had been homeless in the first place, to which ghar are they now returning in their new religious avatar. The obvious reference is to the fact that most of these conversion exercises revolve around the poorest of the poor, who are offered inducements to convert or rather re-convert, as the protagonists of Hindutva would like to call it.

What has been queering the pitch further is the rather indifferent attitude of the government which though unfailingly pulling up all those who are veering off at a tangent, never seems to summon the courage to administer a sharp rap on the knuckles. Had the government initiated definitive action against those who were using religion as a tool for polarising the country, the situation could not have snowballed to such an extent that the minorities now feel highly insecure in their own land.

All this flies in the face of Modi’s inclusive agenda, but the Prime Minister (PM) seems to have thrown in the towel realising that beyond a point, he would not be in any position to rein in the hawks in his own party, or the evangelists in the fringe groups either. The RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and other organisations who have been peddling the theory that India also known as Hindustan is really a Hindu nation, can hardly be coerced into singing any different tune as their commitment to Hindutva is total, and is a predominant fixture in their scheme of things.

In the wake of the conversions in Agra and elsewhere, the hue and cry raised in Parliament and in various quarters has kindled a debate on whether an anti-conversion law should be enacted, banning conversion from one religion to another altogether. However, this does not appear feasible as it would impinge on the fundamental right of citizens of the country to embrace a different faith voluntarily – a freedom that is enshrined in the Constitution. The Constitution incidentally frowns on forced conversions or conversion from one faith to another through allurements.

A section of the society that believes in keeping the communal cauldron boiling all the time, has been doing a signal disservice to the nation, and the government should act with a firm hand when it comes to dealing with such elements. Discrimination on the grounds of religion too could lead to unrest and civil disturbances, and this again is a breach of the constitutional provisions. The onus is now on the NDA government to prove that its intentions vis-a-vis the minorities are entirely honourable, and that all apprehensions to the contrary are unfounded. What is paramount is the unity of the nation and the well-being of all Indians. Everything else pales into insignificance before this lofty and ideal goal.


journalist

C. V. Aravind

The writer is a Bangalore-based freelance journalist.

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