12:00 AM, May 24, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

Change in the neighbourhood

Change in the neighbourhood


THE thumping electoral victory of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by the intensely inspirational Narendra Modi, in the just concluded Indian national election raises hopes and fears. Hope is generated by the pronounced discourses of Gujarat Model economic development with which the prime minister designate is fondly credited. One would like to believe that contemporary India stands on the threshold of an economic take-off in which a great power status beckons. In such a scenario there is a natural expectation in neighbours to share the fruits of potential economic development.
In India itself, however, there are quarters that dispute the claims of accelerated salutary economic management of Gujarat variety and point to the better performances of other states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu on the socio-economic indices of development. What is not clear as of now is whether the Gujarat Model will work out on an all-India format.  
BJP's electoral victory with Narendra Modi as the upbeat steward gives rise to premonitions also because he is considered as being very close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is the primary source of ideological inspirations. One may recollect that Mr. Modi'sGujarat has often been described by the Sangh Parivar (comprising the BJP, the RSS, Viswa Hindu Parishad, and Bajrang Dal) as the 'Hindutva' (primacy of Hindu values) laboratory, i.e. where the Hindutva political philosophy based on hatred of minorities is tested.
To students of history it is quite intriguing as to how Gujarat that ought to have been a peaceful state, not only because of its economic prosperity but also owing to its 'Gandhian Heritage,' became the epicenter of communal violence in India and witnessed several ferocious communal riots through the '60s to the carnage of 2002.
It would be pertinent to remember that the Jan Sangh, a right-wing Hindu party formed in 1950, is a political offspring of the RSS and was renamed as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1980. The Jan Sangh had played a key part in inciting communal violence in Gujarat in 1969. In fact, the 1969 riots were mainly organised by the RSS and further consolidated Jan Sangh's position by the polarising effects. Many in India acknowledge that communal violence is a tactic in the consolidation of political support by Hindu right wing parties. The Jan Sangh, later known as BJP, adopted a political strategy of provoking communal violence to consolidate its position in Gujarat.
We in Bangladesh have good reasons to feel concerned at the potential rise of communally motivated political forces in neighbouring India. The dangerous fangs of obscurantist elements have already made their presence felt in our country in the not-too-distant past. The threats posed to our liberal democratic values and also to a pluralist dispensation by such groups are all too manifest to be overlooked. In fact, the 13-point demand of a so-called fundamentalist organisation is a clear threat to women emancipation and democratic way of life. The rise of communally driven forces in democratic India, it is feared, will strengthen the hold of retrograde elements in Bangladesh.
There are numerically weak but organisationally vocal elements in India who correctly realise that the secular front faces an uphill task in recapturing the political as well as the psychological ground already lost to Hindutva. There is no denying that the aggressive social mobilisation by the Hindu Right has paid handsome dividends in terms of resounding electoral victory. Such mobilisation, however, does not take note of the danger of realigning state and cultural power in the interest of the majority.
The BJP in its earlier stint of exercising political power ventured to extend the influence of Hindutva. Their strategy to reform the education system was exploited as a pretext to revise the school curricula in line with the more extreme elements of Hindutva thought based on the schooling model of RSS. This was done by implementing a new national curriculum framework and editing approved textbooks in ways that directly promoted Hinduism as the 'essence of Indian Culture' and other religions as 'alien or invading faiths.' This was flagrant violation of Article 26 of the Indian constitution that prohibited the teaching of religious instructions in educational institutions managed out of state funds.
Only the future course of events would indicate if the sense of optimism following the 2014 national election of India has been unrealistic or the fears overblown. However, as in 1947 and so today, the main issue before Indian politics is to provide appropriate mechanisms to make political integration possible in an extremely diverse society. This is, and remains, a very earnest and solemn endeavour.

The writer is a columnist of The Daily Star.


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