Mani Shankar Aiyar Reviews PM Modi's Aug 15 Speech

Published: August 17, 2017 19:44 IST
Words, words, words. And yet more words. For the last three years, the nation has had to sit through a cataract of alliterations and acronyms flowing from the ramparts of the Red Fort to end up misinformed, misled and misdirected by a cocktail of evasions, half-truths and white lies. This Independence Day has been no different.

Modi, who is no poet, attempted a parody of Atal Behari Vajpayee: "Na gaali se, na goli se, bas gale milane se". His actual words were:

"Na gaali se suljhane wali,
Na goli se samasya sulajhne wali hai...
Har Kashmiri ko gale lagakar
Sulajhne wali hai."

Wah! Wah! If this were a mushaira, the applause would have been deafening. But the nation at large is bewildered, asking who is resorting to abuse? Who is relying on the gun? Who is refusing to embrace "every Kashmiri"? Who but Modi himself?

The Agenda for Alliance that led to the PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir binds the BJP to reaching out to every Kashmiri. So there is nothing new in Modi's words - although they come in the wake of a long trail of broken pledges. There has been lots of "gaali", lots of "goli", but, to Mehbooba's despair, no attempt at "embracing every Kashmiri" (that includes Geelani, who I have embraced and been called a "traitor" for my pains). Mehbooba has been pleading all along for dialogue - above all, with the Hurriyat. At every turning, she has been thwarted. And by whom? By Narendra Modi, of course. Once again, the culprit remains the same.
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared his vision for a "New India" in his Independence Day speech from Delhi's iconic Red Fort

Modi and his cohort stall the dialogue asking, "Dialogue with whom?" Not, surely, with those who agree. Dialogue has to be with those who disagree. So, it is the discontents to whom the state and central governments have to reach out - and that, alas, means almost everyone in the Valley. Instead, the Modi government's focus has been exclusively on a military solution: the elimination of what Modi called a "handful" of separatists ("mutthi bhar algavwadi"), totally pushing under the carpet the swelling chorus of Valley-wide dissent and disenchantment. Words are no substitute for action. If Modi means it, it is for him to wander every gali (lane) of the Valley, giving every Kashmiri the bear hug he reserves for foreign leaders.

Claiming that "the path of violence in the name of faith can never succeed in this country" because India is "the land of Gandhi and Buddha", Modi failed to add that his is also the land of Savarkar, who he described in a tweet on 28 May 2016 (Savarkar's birthday) as "the true son of India and inspiration for many" (including presumably himself) following his bowing to the Hindutva icon on the same occasion the previous year in remembrance of Savarkar's "indomitable spirit and contribution to India's history".

Savarkar's "contribution to India's history" includes his describing himself as "the staunchest advocate of loyalty to the English government", a "prodigal son" returning to "the paternal doors of the Government" for "every intelligent lover of India would heartily and loyally cooperate with the British people in the interests of India herself" (quoted from his petitions of 14 November, 1913 and 30 March, 1920). Subsequently, he was to claim that these fawning submissions were simply a ruse to trick the Brits into releasing him. So much for satya - now to ahimsa.

Savarkar, in his Six Glorious Epochs, classifies non-violence as "a perverted conception of virtue" (p.168). He describes Asoka's "turn to non-violence" as "anti-national". Golwalkar, in his Bunch of Thoughts, writes, "The Buddhist sect had turned traitor to the mother society and the mother nation". David Hardiman, in his "Gandhi in his Times and Ours", points to Savarkar's praise for Pushpamitra, a distant successor of Asoka, who "restored pride to the Indian nation by abandoning the policy of non-violence", adding, "the episode reflects Savarkar's idea that it was a 'national duty' to assassinate proponents of non-violence in the cause of the nation".
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At 54 minutes, PM Modi's address was the shortest by far since his first speech from Red Fort in 2014

Says Dr. Vinayak Chaturvedi (named after Vinayak Savarkar), and arguably the foremost contemporary scholar of Savarkar's works (he is currently researching 40,000 pages of unpublished Savarkar papers archived in the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library): "Violence is central to what Savarkar calls 'Hindu civility'. For him, violence is directly connected to what it means to be a Hindu. Violence is at the heart of the episteme of Hindu thought. The act of violence marks the completion of being a Hindu". (From a lecture delivered by Dr. Chaturvedi at the Centre for Developing Societies on 29 March 2017, extracted from his lecture notes that he kindly shared with me).

In this light, it is truly extraordinary that Modi should have invoked Gandhi and the Buddha - both of whom Savakar excoriated - without repudiating Savarkar himself. On the contrary, Modi and the Sangh Parivar revel in the notion of being the inheritors of Savarkar's legacy. When, therefore, Modi says, as he did this Independence Day, that "in the name of faith, violence cannot be allowed", the goons of the Gau Rakshak gang and Yogi Adityanath's Hindu Yuva Vahini know they can safely evade the stern warning from the ramparts and go about their business of translating Savarkar's philosophy into action. After all, who is resorting to violence in the name of faith? None other than Modi's most ardent followers. And who is ignoring Modi's occasional reprimand? Precisely the same lot. So, if Modi cannot rein in his own vigilantes, what is the point of exhorting the billion and a quarter Indians who have no faith whatsoever in violence to not resort to violence in the name of faith? One can only say with Shakespeare, "Physician, heal thyself".

Modi then went on to talk of 1942, the Quit India Movement. More important is what he did not talk about - the ugly story of the Hindu Mahasabha's and RSS response to Gandhiji's immortal call to the British to "Quit India". Savarkar, in his capacity as President of the Hindu Mahasabha, responded by calling for "Responsive Cooperation", which he said, "covers the whole gamut of patriotic activities from unconditional cooperation right up to active and even armed resistance". Not, mind you, "resistance" to Imperial rule but "resistance" to Gandhi and the Congress. The other Sangh Parivar hero, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, then Finance Minister in the Muslim League-headed coalition Government of Bengal, thus explained "Responsive Cooperation" in a letter dated 26 July, 1942, to the his British masters: "Anybody who, during the war, plans to stir up mass feeling, resulting in internal disturbances or insecurity, must be resisted". This was just two weeks before Quit India day.
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PM Modi talked about the need to "take the country ahead with the determination of creating a New India," by 2022

And yet, Modi has the gall to claim credit for Gandhi-ji's final assault on the bastion of British rule, which the Sanghis boycotted and subverted, proclaiming from the bastion of the Red Fort, sacred to the memory of Neta-ji's Azad Hind Fauj : "Our motto was 'Bharat Chhoro' and today's slogan is, 'Bharat jodo'." His real objective, however, remains, "Bharat tohdo" because, true to Savarkar, in his heart he subscribes to Savarkar's proclamation at the Hindu Mahasabha annual session in Nagpur in 1938: "We are Indians because we are Hindus and vice versa...India must be a Hindu land, reserved for the Hindus." Savarkar ended with the peroration: "If you wish, O Hindus, to prosper as a great and glorious Hindu Nation, that state must be established under the Hindu flag". Is this the way to "Bharat jodo"?

In parliament, just days before mounting the rostrum at Red Fort, Modi had sneered at the departing Vice President that he was now free to return to his "core ideas". This encouraged his ideological bhakt, Indresh Kumar, marg-darshak of the RSS, to advise the Hon'ble M. Hamid Ansari to "Quit India" saying, "He should head for any country where he feels he will be secure". Is this the way to talk of a distinguished holder of high constitutional office? Is this the way to "Bharat jodo"? And just look at the reports of Mohan Bhagwat, top honcho at the RSS, hoisting the national flag at a government-aided school in Kerala and then displaying his "patriotism" by not protesting the abject failure of the school to play the national anthem. Muslim madrasas in UP are being targeted for a similar offense, but their leading ideologue is only following the long-standing RSS denigration of the national anthem. Is this Modi's "New India"?

How long will this hypocrisy continue? 2019 will not be an election merely to change a government. It will be an election to save the country, its syncretic traditions, its composite culture, its very identity. To preserve the Idea of India that inspired the Freedom Movement, Modi and his ilk must be defeated. So, onwards with the gath-bandhan, Inshallah, the maha-gathbandhan!

(Mani Shankar Aiyar is former Congress MP, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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