JOHN DAYAL | 2 SEPTEMBER, 2014
NEW DELHI: The popular idiom in international human rights discourse is that there can never be a “boycott” of any one, be it governments, non-state actors, political parties, institutions or individuals. There must be constant engagement. There must always be scope to explore channels of communication, leading possibly to dialogue. And dialogue can be an end in itself in the short and medium term, even if there is little hope of success, or even understanding in the beginning.
It must hold true of the Indian church’s religious leadership seeking a dialogue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Prime Minister of India is a Constitutional position. And the Indian Government is a creation of the Constitution. So there is need to engage with it.
Many in the Church – most “major” denominations, certainly – had been eager to be seen with PM Modi even when he was just the Chief Minister of the State of Gujarat, despite the baggage of his image as the leader who presided over a government which sat idle as the Muslim community in the state capital was being butchered in the most brutal manner by hordes of the Sangh Parivar. “We have no orders to save you,” was the title of a contemporary investigative report, which quoted police officers. Years later, PM Modi was to famously tell an international broadcast media that he felt sad. “Would one not feel sad if a puppy came under our car?” he asked.
PM Modi still does not answer questions on the 2002 violence. In his Independence Day speech after unfurling the national flag at the Red Fort in New Delhi, he called for “development and governance”, the slogans that brought him to power, and he called for toilets and gender security. And, then, he called for a “ten-year moratorium” on violence which had roots in caste, ethnic identities or religious confrontations. No one has so far asked him why he did not call for a zero tolerance policy on such violence, and action against the hate campaigns that lead to it. A ten-year moratorium would end in 2024, which presumes a ten-year reign for the BJP, assuming it wins the 2019 general elections. This is a calendar fraught with dangerous implications, as political pundits and human rights activists have pointed out.
The Prime Minister and the BJP are unabashed about their loyalty to the RSS and the expanding group of organisations it has spawned, collectively known as the Sangh Parivar. PM Modi is himself a former
RSS leader, as are several of his Cabinet colleagues. Some ranking RSS officials have in recent weeks been inducted as general secretaries of the BJP, leaving absolutely no one in any doubt of the seamless fusion of the political party and the Sangh which styles itself as a social and cultural organisations.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has repeated asserted that everyone in India is Hindu, including Muslims and Christians. Seshadri Chari, former editor of RSS mouthpiece Organiser and member of the BJP national executive, who enjoys a deserved reputation as a sober and reflective commentator, is quoted in the Outlook Magazine saying that Hindus have always been a majority in India but the manifestation of majoritarianism has been reflected in the cultural and social field. “Now it is reflected in the politics of the country. A large number of foot-soldiers in the RSS-BJP do believe that the political Hindu has arrived,” he said.
That puts religious minorities on notice. It is for the Prime Minister to assure them that the Constitution, and the rule of law will prevail. This cannot be done through moratoriums. This should be the backbone of the promise of good governance.