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Can gap between Modi’s vision and Hindu hyper-nationalists be bridged?

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Narendra Modi is probably learning the veracity of Stalin’s insightful aphorism that while one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic. In a country which has seen innumerable communal riots over the decades, and a 25 percent rise in inter-faith violence since Modi came to power, the furore over the death of one Muslim in a village near Delhi must be something of a puzzle and also hugely disconcerting for the government because it cannot quite anticipate what the fallout will be over a period of time.

Its concerns must be all the greater because the incident persuaded President Pranab Mukherjee to deviate from a written script at a Rashtrapati Bhavan function and call for preserving the nation’s “core” values. The president’s appeal made the prime minister break what the New York Times once called his “dangerous silence” on the attacks on minorities and urge Hindus and Muslims to fight poverty and not one another.

Evidently, the murderous attack on a Muslim family by a saffron mob on the suspicion that they were eating beef has alerted the prime minister about the growing level of intolerance in the saffron camp. For Modi, the tragedy could not have occurred at a worse time, for it has taken much of the sheen off his recent foreign trip. Even German chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to India was overshadowed by the murder.

What the centre and the BJP may feel uneasy about is that even as they issue the routine condemnations, they will be largely unable to brush aside the primary motive for the murder since cow slaughter has always had great emotional appeal for the saffron brotherhood.

As a result, the Hindu chauvinists will be forever on the lookout for any provocation in their eyes as can be seen from the manhandling of an MLA by the BJP legislators inside the Jammu and Kashmir assembly for holding a beef party and the burning of a truck carrying cows and the assault on a Muslim youth who was in the truck in Uttar Pradesh.

These acts of violence show that for all of Modi’s efforts, the communal situation will continue to simmer. Moreover, the government’s difficulty will be in failing to sell the idea of the “holy cow” without being seen as oddballs in today’s world by the beef-eating foreign investors.

It was easier for the Hindutva lobby to accuse Muslims of invasion, rape, pillage and desecration of temples in medieval times, and then link them with today’s jehadis in order to buttress its essentially anti-Muslim worldview.

But it is difficult to justify the killing of a Muslim for allegedly eating beef. Hence the widespread criticism in the international media of this “accident”, as Union Minister of State for Culture Mahesh Sharma called it.

In the last few days, therefore, much of the favourable impression which Modi succeeded in creating about himself abroad with his dress sense, eloquence and tears for his mother has been largely negated by the rage expressed by saffronites against beef-eaters.

Coupled with the suspected involvement of the Hindu Right in the killing of rationalists, the anti-beef agitation will make the task of governance all the more difficult.

Arguably, the realization in the government that the depredations of the Hindu fundamentalists will have an adverse impact on foreign investment will persuade it to rein them in.

But it will not be easy to bridge the gap between Modi’s vision of a 21st century India – a digitalized nation, smart cities, bullet trains – and the desire of the Hindu hyper-nationalists to impose their culinary fads on the country.

Admittedly, the BJP has become a lot more sober than the time when it moved from the margins of politics to centre-stage in the 1990s with its call for demolishing mosques, or the “ocular” provocations, to quote LK Advani, the party’s fiery rath yatri (chariot rider) of the time.

Stints in power at the centre and in some of the states have made it aware of the “idea” of India, or the Nehruvian concept of a nation with a composite culture, incorporating the multihued strands of the religions of all those who live in the country – Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and others. However, this sophisticated view is apparently confined to a thin layer of those in the BJP’s upper echelons while the vast majority in the party and in the Sangh parivar subscribes to the concept of Hindu rashtra (nation), where the minorities will be second class citizens.

Modi has been successful so far in preventing a major communal outbreak that was anticipated by the Congress’s Mani Shankar Aiyar, who said that he was waiting for the Godhra or Gujarat “moment” which would set the ball rolling for Modi’s downfall.

The latest incident, however, poses a real challenge to the prime minister because it relates to the issue of cow slaughter which is probably even more sensitive to the saffron crowd than the “ocular” provocations. Yet, he has no option but to douse the flames since the success or failure of his “Make in India” project based on foreign investment depends on his fire-fighting abilities directed against sections of his own party and ‘parivar’.

(Amulya Ganguli, IANS)

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Waves of black as Modi visits Chennai

Tamil Nadu has been in turmoil since the six-week period for setting up the Board expired, with opposition parties and a host of fringe Tamil groups attacking the Centre

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi (FILE PHOTO)

Black flags and balloons and activists in black shirts and trousers greeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he paid a whirlwind visit to Chennai with helicopter as the chosen mode of transport in the wake of statewide agitation demanding constitution of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB).

Protests were also held with black flags and placards throughout Tamil Nadu in cities like Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Coimbatore and Tuticorin against the Prime Minister’s brief visit to the state and the Centre’s failure to constitute the CMB despite a Supreme Court order. Black flags were hoisted on homes and business establishments across the state.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi stressed on the importance of service to others in his last Mann Ki Baat edition for 2017.
Narendra Modi welcomed with black flags in chennai.

In a bid to avoid protesters, Modi, who arrived here by a special aircraft in the morning, chose a helicopter to reach Tiruvidanthai, in neighbouring Kanchipuram district where he opened the 10th DefExpo organised by the Defence Ministry. From there he took another chopper to come to IIT Madras, in the heart of the city. From there, he took a one-kilometre ride by car to the neighbouring Adyar Cancer Institute for an event.

The Prime Minister walked a few steps from the helicopter to the car that ferried him to the Cancer Institute. As he did so, he encountered some 30 students from IIT Madras who stood silently but held posters demanding a Cauvery Management Board as ordered by the Supreme Court — an issue which has whipped up emotions in Tamil Nadu. Modi then left by helicopter to the airport before returning to Delhi.

Also Read: Modi is anti-Dalit, will defeat BJP in 2019: Rahul Gandhi

#Go back Modi trended on top as netizens took to the cyberspace to register their protest against the Central government’s failure to set up the CMB as directed by the Supreme Court to ensure proper sharing of Cauvery waters between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and other states.

DMK leader M.K. Stalin, who was on a padayatra of the Cauvery delta areas, wore black shirt and trousers as he protested along with state Congress President Thirunavukkarasar and CPI-M state unit chief Mutharasan. “The Prime Minister may be flying in the air today but he has to come down when the elections come,” he said taking a dig at Modi.

A black flag was hoisted at DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s residence. The ailing leader wore a black shirt. DMK MP Tiruchi Siva and leaders of DMK allies wore black dress and marched on the road near the Chennai airport.

In the morning outside the Chennai airport, activists of the Federation for protection of Tamil Art and Culture, led by noted film director Bharatiraja and other film personalities like Amir, Gautaman and Vetrimaran protested against Modi’s visit. They were arrested.

will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community. Wikimedia Commons
Cauvery River Dispute is going on for a while now. Wikimedia Commons

While MDMK chief Vaiko held a black flag protest in Velachery, Naam Thamizhar Katch convenor Seeman, a film director, was arrested elsewhere. Vaiko called Modi a “coward” for choosing to fly. Political leaders Velmurugan and P. Nedumaran were arrested from Alandur metro station in Chennai for holding black flag protests.

Tamil Nadu has been in turmoil since the six-week period for setting up the Board expired, with opposition parties and a host of fringe Tamil groups attacking the Centre, saying the BJP was interested only in winning the Assembly elections in Karnataka. Even the hugely-popular IPL cricket matches have been shifted out of Chennai to Pune in view of the disturbances on Tuesday. IANS