Questions are being raised why the Prime Minister has maintained a stoic silence on Padma Shri film actress Kangana Ranaut’s much applauded public pronouncement at the Times Now summit that what we got on 15 August 1947, was only a “bheek (alms)” presumably from the British, for before that date India was a colony of the British Empire.
Of course, her remarks make a mockery of all the ostentation being displayed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government apparently to celebrate the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, notwithstanding his determination to destroy all the heritage monuments built assiduously in New Delhi not just by the British but the government of independent India like Shastri Bhawan, Krishi Bhawan et al—to have not just his own Parliament but Sansad Bhawan as well. It’s obviously a concerted attempt to obliterate from the people’s memory the contribution by his predecessors to India’s progress and development.
Do we really expect the Prime Minister, his party the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or their alma mater the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to feel contrite on account of the lady, honoured just a few days back for similar utterances earlier, by President Ram Nath Kovind with the prestigious Padma Shri award? If anything, the Prime Minister, as always on such matters, through his studied silence, is endorsing Kangana’s views about India achieving freedom only with his becoming the Prime Minister in 2014. Why he alone, this appears to be the unpublicised view of the entire Sanghi brigade.
Former Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) international president late Ashok Singhal publicly announced to the world at a press conference days after Modi became the Prime Minister that India has achieved freedom now after 1000 years.
And what of Modi? Did he not derisively dismiss India’s remarkable achievements before he occupied the Prime Minister’s chair? He remained undeterred and unrepentant like Kangana even when someone fished out a speech by the first BJP-NDA Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the Lok Sabha declaring that he would be the last person to dismiss India’s achievements by the governments preceding him and the sacrifices of Nehru.
There is no need to pick on Kangana, chasing the world of glamour, because we don’t know whether she could spare time and energy to read up on the independence struggle, the sacrifices made by our freedom fighters, thousands who were killed in successive police firings and lathi charge during the Quit India movement, the many fasts and satyagrahas of Mahatma Gandhi, and his self-sacrificing followers, the Congress leaders, which forced the British empire, crumbling under its own weight to Quit India. But yes, there is certainly a remarkable difference—socially, economically and politically– between the India that achieved its independence and progressed through decades of determined effort to emerge a major economic power under his predecessor noted Economist Dr Manmohan Singh, and India under Modi. Manmohan Singh could be faulted for many things but his commitment to secularism and peace was unparalleled even within his Congress party. Modi’s most charitable remarks about Muslims on the other hand in the context of Gujarat pogrom which he presided over was, “Kutte ka bachcha bhi gadi ke neeche aa jaye to afsos to hota hi hai (Even of a puppy is run over by a car one feels sad).
Modi successfully demonstrated in his 12 years rule in Gujarat how hate campaign against the hapless minorities can galvanise a huge population cutting across caste and class barriers to usher in a majoritarian state. Impressed by this remarkable feat, the right wing Indian establishment consciously and knowingly projected Modi as “Vikash Purush” (the Development Man), aware of what actually was in store and whose ‘vikas’ was expected from a leader whose real agenda was to establish a majoritarian corporate oligarchy in which 20 crore strong Muslim population becomes electorally irrelevant.
That’s what Ashok Singhal had proudly hoped with Modi’s advent in the national capital and that’s what the hydra headed RSS and its many offshoots have been performing with impunity, now that the Sangh pracharak is leading a clear majority government since 2014. Two days ago, a young teenage specially abled boy with only one arm, selling fish in Benares was dragged away by the UP police and beaten mercilessly. With tears in his eyes and with whole body aching the young fellow lying in the hospital was narrating his plight. On August 25 a Muslim Dosa vendor was dragged by his hair and nearly lynched for selling Dosas in a Hindu area in Bareilly. On June 19, a Muslim vendor Rizwan was assaulted with lathis in West Delhi’s Uttam Nagar area and forced to shout ‘Jai Shri Ram’ the war cry of the Hindutva brigade of the Sangh. In August only, a Muslim bangle seller in Indore was assaulted for selling bangles to women in Hindu area. Instead of any action against the assailants, the Madhya Pradesh Police registered a case against the bangle seller. Standup comedian Munawar Faruqui, was arrested along with Nalin Yadav, who organised the show, in Indore on New Year Day for making people laugh on a complaint of one Eklavya Singh Goud, the son of a BJP MP. The upmarket garment store FabIndia popular for its ethnic kurtas and other similar stuff had to remove one of its ads because BJP MP from Karnataka Tejaswi Surya objected to a misspelt Riwaj (tradition) Surya believed was an Urdu word.
At least in these cases the government could plead no direct involvement. But the way the poor Muslims living in shanties in Assam were singled out to demolish their habitat, and were driven away was no less heart rending. Add to that the police photographer getting himself videographed jumping upon the chest of a dead Muslim in full view of the police force under the command of the Chief Minister’s brother and then proudly circulating the video of this inhuman act. In Tripura Hindutva brigade went around attacking Muslim houses, mosques and abusing and assaulting them. But the BJP government there slapped the draconian UAPA upon the fact-finding team of lawyers comprising of Ansar Indori and Mukesh, when it reported the complicity of the state in its report ‘Humanity under attack in Tripura; #Muslim lives matter’. Two days later two Delhi-based women journalists who had gone to do a story of this, were detained in Assam and cases slapped on them by Agartala police.
Closer home it has become impossible for Muslims to offer their Friday congregational prayers in the upmarket so-called cosmopolitan Gurgaon nee Gurugram as the New India now refers to this ancient place. Their mosques and dargahs are under illegal occupation and the government makes no effort to remove illegal occupation there. But when they offer prayers in the open space the BJP men come and obstruct them.
Former RSS chief Guru Golwalkar’s vision of a Hindu Rashtra was that Muslims shall have no rights not even civil rights except the right to serve and promote Hindutva. Modi has surely brought about a situation wherein the Hindutva brigade is free to do as it likes—lynch, assault and then also arrest and jail the victim with no redressal for months and sometimes years together. Definitely if this is Kangana Ranaut and her fellow travellers’ concept of independence, for which she has apparently been honoured with Padma Shri, such “independence” has come only with Modi’s advent.