By Malvika Verma
Edited by Anjini Chandra, Senior Editor,The Indian Economist
Ushering in the New Year with reflections on the past year is only traditional. The year 2014 has been a year of tumultuous changes, with the General Elections bagging the top spot of the most talked about and drastic changes that the nation ever witnessed. The Modi government swooped in to win the hearts of the masses, leading political analysts to write obituaries for the 129 year old Congress Party. But despite this watershed victory, doubts about this Hindu nationalist party’s intentions are surfacing, as their promises of development and progress are taking their own sweet time to bear fruit, while the deterioration of the social climate is right on cue.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s and Dharma Jagran Samiti’s ‘ghar wapsi’ conversions taking place all over the country have become a reason for concern. Ghar wapsi is enforcing notions of a primal religious identity, whereby all are declared Hindus. It very openly, yet subtly, denationalizes religions other than Hinduism, facilitating their ‘othering’. In the name of a home, a nation, a boundary, it adopts a language where all other religions are seen as anti-national, falling in the domain of an exile. The emboldening and increasing importance of such organizations has made many question if this is a direct result of having a Hindu nationalist party in power at the Centre. The BJP may not be an immediate contributor to these acts, but it isn’t doing what is expected of it to prevent people and organizations from fanning the fire of communalism and social conflict. It is in this way an instigator, in the cloak of a silent spectator.
If this wasn’t enough to vitiate the atmosphere and sharpen the awareness of communal identities, we have the central government’s recent decision to declare Christmas as Good Governance Day, which is rather troubling and even damaging to the BJP’s image. Was it an attempt to ‘hijack the Christmas day’ as Mamta Banerjee alleged, or was it a condescending message to the minorities that their special days don’t count? And what exactly did the day achieve? Was it successful in communicating a new idea of good governance, a path that the Modi government will pursue and will want others to follow? Unfortunately not. Agreed, that 25th December is the birthday of two icons of India—Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malviya—and their contributions should be remembered by all. But these political figures deserve better recognition. The birth anniversaries of the men whose lives symbolized pluralism and an accommodative polity, are being celebrated by a demonstration of gross disregard for the sentiments of the Christian community. This is an act of disrespect. Even the conferring of the country’s highest civilian award to the two illustrious stalwarts has been politicized and made into a debacle, and in this regard the media is to take much of the blame. The Bharat Ratna is not the Prime Minister’s special award that he or she ‘gifts’ to their favourites, this award is certainly not a ‘birthday gift’ from Modi to his guru Atalji. Such statements degrade not only the award, but make people question the deservedness of a personality as great as Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Mr. Modi has sought to project himself as a development guru, partly to escape his image of an alleged Hindu chauvinist. However, his projection may not bear well with the masses unless and until he and his party act decisively to put an end to all activities that challenge the pluralistic and secular spirit of the nation. Indians value and treasure the fibre of multiculturalism and those intending to make a mark on this diverse land, need to learn to respect and accommodate all religious practices and communities.
Malvika Verma is a first year student of Philosophy at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi. She believes that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword and aspires to bring about a change for the better through her writing. Being a voracious readers, she reads almost everything she can lay her hands on, be it politics, history, literature or economics. She has immense confidence in the power of the youth and believes that when united, they can be the catalyst for proactive change. Malvika can be reached at email@example.com