Over the few days that followed Wing Commander Abhinandan’s capture by the Pakistani army, I was added to a WhatsApp group by a friend who promised me that I would enjoy the kind of political discussions taking place on that platform. It turned out to be an echo chamber of ring-wing propaganda, where conspiracy theories and pseudo nationalist agendas found a home. Apparently, the Congress was responsible for the Pulwama attack and Rahul Gandhi had himself drafted the plan to kill those 40 chaps. Oh, and there was someone on the group who thought that the name ‘India’ was ‘sickular.’ The fact that the terms India and Hindu both have a common genesis and share etymology was lost on this erudite crowd. Continue reading
As Modi, a self-proclaimed Hindu nationalist, attempts to provide the panacea to all that ails this country, a steady wave of saffronization is spreading, one that is barely perceptible but very much extant. Nehru’s legacy is questioned; Nathuram Godse is called a patriot, and it is suggested that he should have killed Nehru instead of Gandhi. And the leader of the largest secular democracy of the free world gifts a copy of the Gita – the guiding light of those who bask in the glory of Hinduism as a way of life – to another world leader. Maybe I read too much into it… But when a respected Parliamentarian and a Union minister calls for the Gita to be declared the National Book of India, I sense a saffron undercurrent. I sense it when money is raised to fund conversions of Muslims and Christians. I sense it when those self-appointed guardians of the Hindu culture and chest-thumping pseudo-intellectuals dictate the heroes I should worship and the language I should speak. I sense it when textbooks are purged and history is rewritten in hues of religion. It is only a matter of time before the parivaar and its perverse ideology merge with the party, and one will become an extension of the other, if it isn’t already.
A lot has been written and said about Narendra Modi and every aspect of his leadership in national and international media in recent months. Riding on the back of three successful stints as chief minister of a state with an extremely enterprising populace and the anti-incumbency factor, Modi is widely seen as the man forming and leading the next government at the center. With a few weeks left before 814 million people vote in one of the biggest electoral exercises in the world that will last for over a month, the BJP has gone on an overdrive to highlight Modi’s meteoric rise with most of the advertising for the elections centered on the man and his pro-development and pro-business image. The markets, driven more by sentiment than by fundamentals at this point in time, have touched new highs and are already factoring-in a Modi-win. Small and medium enterprises, which were hit hard during the global economic meltdown and are still reeling under the after-effects of its collapse, are riding out the last few months of a government plagued by policy paralysis in the hope that business will receive a stimulus once a new regime takes over. Continue reading