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Looking ahead at NaMo's 2024

With the raging debate on conversion, we're back to square one. Seven months ago India was in the thick of general elections. At first, it appeared that the Bharatiya Janata Party was taking a risk by fielding a Chief Minister whose record was blemished by the Gujarat riots of 2002. Development struck a chord with the masses. And nothing else mattered. Come 25 December 2014, where are we headed?

We have a Prime Minister who has been compared with Indira Gandhi in terms of his authority over his ministers. We also have a Prime Minister who has intentionally or unintentionally let affiliate organisations have their way.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been wise about not outrightly supporting the cause of Hindutva, instances like the Trilokpuri riots, burning of a church in Delhi, a BJP MP's comments on ‘Ramzadon’ and ‘Haramzadon' in Parliament, indicate that polarisation is discreetly creeping into ways of how people are going to look at each other.

Wake up

Our country is sleeping and by the time we wake up after 10 years, there will be distrust, a strong sense of belonging to a community or State, and a perceived threat to identity which will result in parochialism. The Dharam Jagran Samiti's plan of 'ghar wapsi' in Aligarh — is an inevitable doing of the events in the last six months and earlier, and of the things yet to come. A man will be scared to let be known that his title is Abraham or Ibrahim. Communities will be pitted against each other. It has already begun.

Giving importance to religion at a time when the world is tense with religious conflicts is dangerous, a recipe for distrust and animosity, and an antithesis of unity that has bound us for years. Moreover, it's a pity we have to pay attention to ideological nonsense at a time when we should be talking about the actual development of the masses. Ideology has taken centrestage when the basic problem of poverty, which has affected the majority of the population since Independence, has not been solved.

Whose identity is it anyway?

Why do people need to 'come back home (ghar wapsi)' when they are grappling with problems of unemployment and malnutrition of their children? The fundamental question should then be: why do sops offered in the name of a certain community induce conversion in the first place? What choice does a man have when he is contemplating suicide for not being able to pay debts?

The issue here is not of some missionary preaching in a village or re-conversion, but the well-being of an individual, his rights and his aspirations. There is in fact a greater need for building a conducive atmosphere where people can make the right decisions concerning their occupation in terms of bettering their skills, health and education of their children. For instance, Anandwan, an organisation founded by Baba Amte, is based on a model of self-reliance for the marginalised.

Neither can an ideology help an individual find spiritual ground, nor can sops offered in the name of a 'minority/majority religion' fulfil his needs in the long run.

It is the individuality of a man that ought to be respected, which is far more important than an unfortunate stamp of religion that is imposed on him by virtue of his surname in India. Changing the name or converting him won't change the individual or his basic beliefs in life.

Stereotypes and the burden of identity

We grow up with stereotypes around religion and language. It's an identity crisis of being Indian and having a 'non-Hindu name' if you belong to a so-called non-Hindu community. With the pace of events in the last seven months, it just makes this identity an albatross around the neck.

At this point, it can be said our fears are coming true with every passing month as they stress on cleansing India of 'outsider religions'. Gujarat of 2002 haunts us as we stare at the violence and right-wing propaganda of the last seven months.

Mr. Modi might distance himself from embarrassments caused by his associates and their activities, but that won't change reality. He would very well tread on the path of development, while allowing affiliate organisations to clear the path for divisiveness. The decision to give Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath, who is known for making controversial comments on riots, the responsibility for leading the campaign for the Uttar Pradesh by-polls in September 2014, is a case in point.

2024 will have a million smartphones in India and identities too. The latter will be Made in M.

(Bincy Mathew writes on issues and events that strike her, sometimes with a serious focus, and the rest with a humourous touch.)

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 8:51:33 PM |

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