Narendra Modi’s own goal
None of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “bold moves” has actually achieved anything, other than cause both short-term and long-term damage to India’s social cohesion, economic progress and political stability. But such is the Hindutva-inspired euphoria that people are applauding nonetheless.
(Published in the Daily Times, 18 October 2019)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hundreds of millions of Hindu followers are rejoicing over the subjugation of the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir. But soon they will wake up to a grave new reality – a deeply fractured Indian society and polity.
Every Muslim Kashmiri, down to the last man and woman, now feels stabbed in the back by India. This includes even those who held the highest political offices in the state and who had kept faith with India even when a majority of their people had lost it decades ago. Kashmir is now a self-inflicted wound that will fester for a long time and may never heal.
With leaders like Modi and Amit Shah, the “Hindu generals who conquered Muslim Kashmir”, India needs no enemies. They have scored a pyrrhic victory at best. Its negative ramifications will spread far and deep in the diverse and multi-ethnic, multi-religious country that is India.
The Modi-Shah duo has gone after Kashmir and Muslims first. Many minorities – religious, sectarian, ethnic and caste – will now ask, “who is next”?
The Great Leader has scored an own goal against his people and country. The Kashmir assault is actually Modi’s second own goal. His first was the ill-conceived and harsh demonetization of all high denomination rupee banknotes. It caused a huge loss of productivity, not to mention human suffering. All pain, no gain!
Then came the dramatic, but reckless and futile, so-called surgical strikes against Pakistan. To his admirers, demonetisation, the “surgical strikes” and now the Kashmir “victory” together show their Hindu leader’s boldness and decisiveness, compared to his predecessors’ timidity and dithering.
None of these “bold moves” has actually achieved anything, other than cause both short-term and long-term damage to India’s social cohesion, economic progress and political stability. But such is the Hindutva-inspired euphoria that people are applauding nonetheless. They regard any obvious hardship and tribulation caused by these moves as necessary sacrifices for India’s march to great glory under Modi.
Modi had gained both fame and infamy for himself with the so-called Gujrat Model, which he fashioned as the state’s chief minister for over a decade. This model meant different things to different people.
For most Indians, the Gujrat Model meant economic development, jobs and poverty alleviation. For many, it meant the restoration of India’s Hindu pride and its rightful place in the comity of nations. And to the Hindu fanatics, chief minister Modi had demonstrated his capacity to teach the Muslims of Gujrat a lesson. As prime minister he would show all Indian Muslims (including Kashmiris) their rightful place as second class citizens in India.
But a few years as prime minister in New Delhi taught Modi that India is not Gujrat. It is a lot harder to successfully manage a large economy in a huge, diverse country than it is to consolidate power through gimmicks, chicanery and fear mongering.
So, from jobs and the “make in India” motto, he shifted focus to Pakistan and, by implication, to the Muslims of India. People with dubious loyalty to Mother India were everywhere and they had to be ferreted out. If Modi chose his words carefully, home minister Amit Shah and some other ministers and chief ministers did not mince words.
It is a sad irony that those Muslims who chose to remain in India despite partition and the Kashmiris who, however controversially, had decided to accede to India at partition, are the ones who are now being punished for the perceived sin of partition.
For his second term, Modi transformed himself from the promised economic miracle man to his country’s resolute “chowkidar”, its gate-keeper. It was as if the enemy was at the gates and only he could thwart this grave national threat. That external threat was Pakistan, but there was also a fifth column internally. It is the Muslims, from Kashmir in the west to Assam in the east, thundered his able assistant Amit Shah.
For a start, Kashmir’s special, autonomous status guaranteed by Article 370, which is an affront to India, had to be annulled. Kashmir headed the list of the country’s many “pampered” minorities which had to be put in their place.
Modi’s Kashmir gambit is his boldest and finest stroke, or so his admirers think. In one fell swoop, their Hindu Leader has greatly avenged centuries of “Islamic” victories over a weak Hindu nation. A few articles of the Indian constitution and a couple of months of curfew and communication blockade in Kashmir are like road-kill on the drive to India’s greater glory.
Modi abruptly and secretively bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir, a State with a special status, and demoted it to the lower position of a Union Territory, without any reference whatsoever to the will of the Kashmiri people or the state legislature. In so doing, he has torn to shreds each and every agreement whereby Kashmir has been a State within the Republic of India for the last seven decades.
What next? In the name of economic development, the Modi government will alter the demographic ground reality of the Kashmir valley. Indian entrepreneurs will overwhelm the valley with investment. And mostly Hindu workers from the rest of India will follow in its wake, flooding the valley by their sheer numbers. This will be an Indian adaptation of the West Bank settler model perfected in Israel by Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing administration.
If Modi succeeds in his plan, the Kashmir which Kashmiris, Indians, the United Nations and the world know, will be no more. Given the wider and deeper consequences of this unfolding Hindu crusade in what is perhaps the most profoundly diverse country in the world, Modi’s own goal may prove decisive not for, but against India.
The Hindu fedayeen of the Sangh Parivar and the legions of Hindu nationalists and Hindutva patriots may be rejoicing too early. It is their critics who may have the last laugh.
by Razi Azmi
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