There has been no confusion about Narendra Damodardas Modi’s commitment to Hindutva politics which believes in two-nation theory, Casteism, natural inequality and hatred for minorities specially Muslims and Christians. Some people did hope that joining politics as BJP leader in a democratic-secular polity would secularize or democratise his world view. All such hopes have been belied in the course of time. In 2013 as chief minister of Gujarat in an interview to Reuters, he, declared himself to be a ‘Hindu nationalist’, groomed by MS Golwalkar for political stint. It would be naïve to believe that Modi did not understand the background of this term. Nationalisms of Hindu and Muslim variants originated during India’s freedom struggle in opposition to a united freedom movement of people all religions and the both Hindu and Muslim nationalists worked as collaborators of the British rulers. Moreover, Hindutva terrorists who killed Gandhi in 1948, too described themselves as ‘Hindu nationalists’.
Even as PM, RSS senior pracharak, Modi has not changed. As a PM who is supposed to be PM of all the Indians including Muslims he is too fond of wearing hatred for Muslims on his sleeves. He misses no opportunity to denigrate them; all of them. Latest is from Mahoba town, Uttar Pradesh.Mahoba town is in Mahoba district which is part of larger Bundelkhand region consisting of 13 districts, 8 of these in UP. This region has the largest concentration of Dalits in whole of UP and poorest region even from the UP standards.[i]
The drought, poverty, exploitation, Caste persecution, suicide of farmers and migration of population form this region to avoid hunger are endemic. Government agencies reported around 40-60 people killed themselves in the past year but local estimates question this figure and present data to say that the number is at least 10 times higher.According to Prakash, who resigned his as an IIT professor to work for farmers, “it is not a natural drought. It’s man-made. The impunity with which the region’s resources like forests and hills are being depleted, Bundelkhand will soon turn into a big desert.” Loan sharks and their agents have turned most of the households of the region into paupers.[ii]
According to social scientists this area is the worst place in India to be a farmer. According to ActionAid, a global non-government organization working on poverty and human rights, between 1 March and 23 April (2016), 217 farmers committed suicide or died of shock in the seven Uttar Pradesh districts of Bundelkhand.[iii]
According to activist Sanjay Singh, around 18 lakh people have migrated from Bundelkhand over the years. Since 2003, 3,500 farmers are estimated to have committed suicide in the region. The figure this year is already 174, said Mr. Singh.[iv]
Social scientist and activist Yogendra Yadav in his path-breaking report on poverty and devastation in the region has shared with the nation horrible facts about Bundelkhand. According to him at a time when beef and cow-related issues are hogging the limelight, there has been a deafening silence concerning the plight of cattle in Bundelkhand. According to his findings approximately three lakh cattle (most of these being cows) have died in the drought-hit region in the month of May (2016) alone.[v]
Modi began his campaign for 2017 UP elections from Mahoba. He did not touch any of the issues related to the region; drought, poverty, farmers’ suicide, Caste persecution, money lending sharks, cleansing of cattle of the area. The theme of his lecture was Muslim women. As a crusader for justice for Muslim women he roared: “If a Hindu kills a daughter in her mother’s womb, that person has to go behind bars. Similarly, how is my Muslim sister at fault if someone just utters talaq thrice over the telephone and destroys her life”.
His love for Muslim women of India amazing. He further said: “Shouldn’t the rights of Muslim daughters be protected? Shouldn’t Muslim mothers and sisters be protected? Shouldn’t Muslim sisters get equal rights? Some Muslim sisters fought for their rights in court. The Supreme Court asked us, what is the stand of the Government of India. We replied in very clear terms that no injustice should be done to mothers and sisters, that no discrimination should take place in the name of religion.”
Interestingly, PM Modi also wished that media should not turn the issue of triple-talaq into a Hindu versus Muslim issue.[vi]
Sadly, if press reports have not misreported, our PM was exactly trying to present this critical issue of triple-talaq into Hindus versus Muslims issue. He chose to present an analogy which had no connection with triple-talaq debate but to show that Muslims as a whole were being appeased and above law. What did he mean when he said that “if a Hindu kills a daughter in her mother’s womb, that person has to go behind bars” and what relevance this analogy had with the debate on triple-talaq? He was trying to communicate to mostly Hindu audience that only Hindus were persecuted for infanticide and not Muslims! Are there two laws for Hindus and Muslims regarding infanticide? Absolutely not, but PM presents Muslims as inhuman who are not punished for infanticide even. It may not be out of context to note here that according to 2011 Census the sex ratio among Muslims as religious group was 951 women per 1,000 men better than the 939 among Hindus.He tried to equate 3talaq with infanticide in order to denigrate all Muslims.
It is no body’s argument that social life of Muslim women in India is not pathetic. But will it be truthful to argue that only Muslim women are the worst lot. The fact is that subservient status of women does not change despite change of religion, culture, class and region. It is true that the flag-bearers of Islam who claim to have the franchisee of Islam (and there are countless franchisees) religion continue claiming that Islam means justice and equality. But egalitarianism seems to be restricted to male Muslims only; equality is out of bound for Muslim women. As PM of the largest democracy which is still committed to an all-inclusive nation must know that a very small section of Sunni Muslims practice triple-talaq, thousands of Muslims including leading Islamic scholars and hundreds of Muslim organizations have decried and dissociated from this degenerated practice. This churning regarding rights of Muslimwomen in India precedes our Independence. These are Muslim women who have challenged it in the court of law. To paint all Muslims black on the issue of triple-talaq is nothing but Hindutva gimmick and bad for the health of our democratic-secular polity.
It is not difficult to understand the polarizing strategy of RSS/BJP for the forthcoming UP elections. Ram Mandir, Ghar Wapsi, Love Jihaad, Holiness of Cow all have become redundant. Old shikaris of Hindutva clanhave brought a new jaal to consolidate Hindu votes. PM Modi and his associates are bent upon to simmer this triple-talaq issue and are glorifying this aggressive tiny section of Muslim clerics in support of triple talaq so that this talaq-talaq game between them would help in polarization. There is no doubt, these sadistic and male-chauvinist clerics who are equating Islam with triple-talaq are the best friends of Hindutva gang.
It is hoped that PM will be concerned about women of all religions and not just Muslim women. As a senior RSS pracharak he must be aware of the fact that at RSS bookshops a book titled ‘How to Lead a Household Life’ authored by Swami Ramsukhdas and published by Geeta Press is easily available. This book is in question—answer format. When a question is posed, “What should the wife do if her husband beats her and troubles her?” Swami Ramsukhdas offers the following sagely advice to the battered wife and her parents:“The wife should think that she is paying her debt of her previous life and thus her sins are being destroyed and she is becoming pure. When her parents come to know this, they can take her to their own house because they have not given their daughter to face this sort of bad behaviour.”[vii]Moreover, our PM must explain why male organization of the RSS is known as ‘Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’ meaning national volunteer organization; here male RSS members are volunteers. But its women counterpart is known ‘RashtriyaSevikaSamiti’ which means national committee of servants; RSS female members are designated as servants. It is a clear stance of gender discrimination. When will, our PM speak on this issue?
He must also critically evaluate his commitment to enforce Manusmriti as constitution of India which prescribe sub-human existence to Hindu women with Dalits. A shloka of this RSS constitution for India reads: “Day and night woman must be kept in dependence by the males (of) their (families), and, if they attach themselves to sensual enjoyments, they must be kept under one’s control.” (chapter IX shloka 2) Our PM must understand that gender justice is a non-sectarian issue and women of all shades need to be empowered. In fact, empowerment of the women of the largest religious community should be a model to be emulated by all other communities. PM Modi wants the nation to forget about 2002 carnage in Gujarat when large number of Muslim women were raped, burnt alive and in many cases wombs of pregnant women were cut to kill both, mothers and unborn babies. Our PM must behave as PM of India and not as executor of the hatred agenda of Hindutva against minorities.
Shamsul Islam is a retired Professor of University of Delhi.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For some of S. Islam’s writings in English, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Punjabi, Urdu & Gujarati see the following link:
Facebook: shams shamsul
(Print version appears in INDIAN CURRENTS, October 31-6 November issue)
[vii]Ramsukhdass, Swami, How to Lead a Household Life, Gita Press, Gorakhpur, 2001, p. 43.