Polarisation is holding us back

The heady cocktail of hyper-nationalism and religious hatred is overshadowing everything in election-bound India

By Author Geetartha Pathak   |   Published: 5th Dec 2018   12:15 am Updated: 4th Dec 2018   10:46 pm

“We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith.” These words were of former United States President Barack Obama.

Now the narrative has changed with Donald Trump as US President. His arsenal against Muslims and migrants marks a paradigm shift in the US state policy on diversity and openness. Notwithstanding its sheer conservative rightist policy, politics in the US is not as confined around mandir and mosque as in India. As the 2019 parliamentary elections are nearing in India, the electoral politics in India is becoming more religion-centric.


Temple to the Fore
On November 25, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other organisations of the Sangh Parivar mobilised people in big numbers demanding the enactment of legislation to facilitate construction of Ram temple in the disputed area at Ayodhya. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray with his nearly 50,000 followers also rushed to Ayodhya to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his inaction in constructing the temple as promised. Thackeray referred to him as modern Kumbhkarna who slept for four long years.

The leaders of far-right organisations are blaming other top leaders for doing nothing for constructing the mandir. Former VHP leader Pravin Togadia has criticised Modi and RSS chief Mohan Bhagawat stating that both broke their promise of constructing the mandir. Togadia also criticised the RSS chief for his soft stance on Islam that the Hindu nation does not exclude Muslims.

Chief priest of Ram Janmabhoomi Temple Acharya Satyendra Das declared that the BJP would not come to power after the 2019 parliamentary elections if it did not build Ram mandir. The intention is clear — they want on one hand extreme polarisation of Hindu votes in favour of the BJP and its allies, and on the other cover up all the burning issues that have embroiled the polity during the last four years.

With similar intentions, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced his government’s decision to erect a 221-metre high statue of Lord Ram on the banks of Sarayu river that will rob the statue of Sadar Vallabhbhai Patel of its fame of being the highest statue of the world.

SC Under Attack
The apex court of the country is under attack from the Hindutva groups. They criticised the Supreme Court for adjourning the Ayodhya title suit case hearing till January. Ignoring the Uttar Pradesh government’s request for an early hearing, the apex court adjourned the hearing for the Ayodhya case to January. RSS head Bhagwat said that the Supreme Court had failed to understand the sentiment of the people. Another RSS leader Indresh Kumar went to the extent of saying that the SC bench had “delayed, denied and disrespected” justice. He wondered if the country was so handicapped that it would let “two-three judges throttle its beliefs, democracy, constitution and fundamental rights”.

It is difficult to argue with leaders of rightist organisations during this high-voltage campaign that the justice system cannot take any sentiment of any group into account in delivering justice. They have waited since 1992, but now their patience is running out and they want enactment of law. If making a law is not possible, they want an ordinance, so as to construct the mandir.
Parliament can make laws and it is the duty of the court to manage the justice system on the basis of the laws passed by Parliament. However, Parliament arbitrarily cannot make any law by changing the basic structure of the constitution.

Paying Little Heed
The mandir issue is being vigorously pushed to the fore as the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party are coming close to forming an electoral alliance for the 2019 parliamentary elections. The warning of CJI Ranjan Gogoi at the inaugural function of the Constitution Day celebrations in Delhi on November 26 is construed as an inference in the present situation in the country. He said: “It is in our best interest to heed the advice of the constitution. If we do not, our hubris will result in sharp descent into chaos,”

Big statues, giant national flags, Ram Janmabhoomi and resurged nationalism cocktails with religious hatred have overshadowed everything in election-bound India. We are exhausting all our energies in doing so.

Snail-paced Development
There was a discussion on social media on the recently completed 4.94-km long rail-cum-road bridge over the Brahmaputra joining Dibrugarh of Assam with Pasighat of Arunachal Pradesh. Some gave credit to the UPA while some praised the NDA government though the major portion of the work was completed during the UPA government at the Centre and the State.

The foundation stone for the project was laid in 1997 and construction started in 2002. It took long 21 years to complete the construction of the bridge. The world’s longest bridge is the Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge in China, part of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway with a length of 165 km. The bridge, which opened in June 2011, was constructed in just four years. We cannot give credit to any government that took 21 long years to construct the less than 5-km long bridge.

If our politics, social agenda and all other discourses are confined to mandir, mosque, beef, cow vigilante, ghar waspi and love jihads, we will lag behind even the sub-Saharan backward countries within a few decades.

(The author is a senior journalist from Assam)