Skip to main content

Emperor has no clothes: Modi's 'veiled' attack on dress as identity reveals stark bigotry

2011: Modi refusing to wear skullcap
By Ananda Maitreya*
"Jo aag laga rahe hain, TV pe unke jo drishya aa rahe hain, yeh aag lagaane vaale kaun hain, woh unke kapdon se hi pata chal jaata hai" (from the visuals on TV, those setting the fire can be identified by their clothes), Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at an election rally recently. No one was fooled regarding his reference to the clothes and the clothe-wearers he pointed to.
The incidents -- and the fire/violence -- that he was hinting at had begun at the Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi, and yes, many of the marchers and protestors were Muslims. But to zero-in only on Muslims, to equate the Jamia protest only as Muslim protest, is to demonstrate a very blinkered view of things.
The protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), even from their beginning at Jamia, involved a wide variety of people and groups. To mark it as a Muslim-only protest, a Muslim-only issue, is a divisiveness ploy.
It suggests the failure to understand depths of resistance among wide cross-sections of Indian society against every step the Modi government has taken towards establishing its agenda of a nation that prioritizes Hindus, away from India's multi-layered reality.
As someone who boldly announced a new slogan after his re-election in 2019, “Sabka vishwas" (everyone’s trust), appended to his earlier lofty but deceptive utopian mantra, “Sabka saath, sabka vikaas" (everyone together, for everyone's development), Modi now stands increasingly exposed regarding his attitude and intentions with respect to minorities, especially Muslims.
To pick on articles of dress/clothing that putatively identify the Muslims is indeed a cheap trick, but one does not expect such a public remark from the prime minister of a multi-religion country like India. But, one must admit, this was not totally unexpected, either.
Modi presided over the worst violence against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. And, there have been other extremely derogatory, stereotypical, even insulting references to Muslims by Modi and his party members in the recent past. Constantly invoked is the fear of being overwhelmed by Muslims who “bear too many children”.
Modi referred to Muslims as puppies, who accidentally came under a car, while recalling the riots against Muslim in Gujarat state in 2002. One of his chief ministers, Adityanath, too, is known to have made extremely vile remarks on Muslims.
It is a very cliched trope of global Islamophobia, where articles of Islamic dress, such as the headdress, hijab etc. have been targeted, even outlawed. We have seen official instances of such actions and laws in Europe (especially France) and several instances of such victimization in the United States, especially under Donald Trump.
India too has witnessed several contestations regarding headscarves, niqabs and burqas. The Shiv Sena requested a burqa ban this year. The Muslim Education Society in Kerala issued a notice to women not to attend educational institutions with any kind of face covering.
The pressures to conform to majoritarian mores are often huge, and various personal preferences, often in matters of dress or accessories, come in conflict with various government rules, often in the name of security and unity. Sikhs have been fighting a battle all over the world to have their own articles of faith, such as turban and kirpan, recognized for what they mean to them.
Given that Modi has very few things going for him currently -- what with dwindling political support across India, an economy he and his team are unable to grapple with and have led into a tailspin, a violent victimization of minorities, and his own party affiliates’ involvement in exploitation of women -- one wonders with moral authority (or any authority) he made the comment targeting the dress of Muslims?
Constantly invoked is the fear of being overwhelmed by Muslims who bear too many children
This casually exclusionary comment is also a chilling reminder of the “Muslim as the other” image that continues its hold on him. Despite all the lip-service he pays to Muslims, despite his trips to Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries, deep down abides in him the idea of Muslims as inveterate outsiders and others.
They dress differently, for one. And that difference is not merely an aesthetic difference to him, as maybe in the case of Nagas, who might sport one kind of headgear and the Himachalis another -- both of which Modi is happy to don as needed in his political rallies.
Protest in support of attack on Jamia students
But a different approach in the case of Muslims only deepens and confirms their otherness for someone like Modi. It acts as a trigger. And as in his mind, so too in his public utterances, there is the discourse of “us” and “them.” He is unable to get beyond that.
Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar famously spoke of “belong[ing] to two circles of equal size, but which are not concentric. One is India, and the other is the Muslim world.” Such large-hearted, philosophically deep and complex ideas are beyond the ken of the Hindutva-wadis who wish for a flattened and unitary national and religious allegiance.
It was precisely against formulations as above that VD Savarkar (who inspired RSS) argued, when he differentiated inflexibly between allegiance to the “Fatherland (India),” and the “Holyland” as being different among Hindus and Muslims. It is enough to mark Muslims as fundamentally anti-national, as the “other” even though such distinctions are false, flawed, shallow and bigoted.
That they wear clothes that seem different from those of Hindus, therefore, does two things for those that follow Savarkar’s creed -- on one hand, the clothes mark the Muslims as different from Hindus; on the other hand, it confirms to the Hindutva-wadis that, because Muslims are different, because they have other allegiances, they dress differently.
Each line of argument reinforces the other, and the otherness of the Muslims. For them, the Hindutva-wadis, there is just one circle -- in which they travel endlessly.
---
*Writer, student of social movements, has been involved in struggles of the marginalized people, including Dalits and Adivasi

Comments

Anonymous said…
HAHAHAHAHAHHA HAAA YES EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES!!!!
HOW DID GUJARAT GET PROVOKED TO VENGEANCE ON MUSLIMS?
*MUSLIMS KILLED/LOCKED-&-BURNED A WHOLE TRAIN FULL OF HINDU BABIES AND CHILDREN AND WOMEN FIRST!*
Gujarat like all intiations are created by the JHANOONI (vitriolic) Muslims. MUSLIMS IN GUJARAT first BURNED a TRAIN FULL of HINDU Pilgrims returning from a pilgrimage - BABIES, CHILDREN, ... OLD MEN - WOMEN ... FIRST THE MULSIM GROUP WENT INSIDE THE STOPPED TRAIN, AND SELECTED AND REMOVED ALL MUSLIMS PASSENGERS, THEN LOCKED THE TRAINS AND SET IT ON FIRE ... THOSE WERE YOUR FAMILIES!!!!
Godhra train burning
February 27, 2002
Description
DescriptionThe Godhra Train Burning was an incident that occurred on the morning of 27 February 2002, in which 59 Hindu pilgrims and karsevaks returning from Ayodhya, were killed in a fire inside the Sabarmati Express train near the Godhra railway station in the Indian state of Gujarat.

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Upholding labour rights, Nehruvian scientific temper, Rajni Patel opposed Emergency

By Harsh Thakor*  Rajni Patel, who died 40 years ago, whatever his flaws, had one great quality: his human touch to offer selfless service and ability to galvanise or influence human beings from all walks of life. Few people would ever go out of the way to help someone or serve as selflessly without aim of personal gain. Rajni championed Nehruvian secular ideas and scientific temper. As a master in public relations he revealed utmost humility. As a barrister, he never appeared against the trade unions or workers. A Fabien Socialist he opposed liberal capitalism and radical socialism. Unlike most lawyers, he did not succumb to the lure of amassing wealth. Rajni was born in Sirsa, in Gujarat, on the very day Gandhi set foot on Indian soil, on 9th January, 1915. He gained his baptism through one of Gandhi's speeches calling for the boycott of foreign goods, which was the virtual turning point of his life. Rajni toed Gandhi to organise boycott of foreign goods. Rajni was able to cros

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

Vadodara violence: Fine Arts Faculty alumni raise fingers at Varsity's political appointee

Hasmukh Vaghela with PM Counterview Desk  In a statement, alumni of the Faculty of Fine Arts (FoFA), Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Baroda, Gujarat, referring to the “violence” by right-wing groups for displaying “objectionable” paintings that “hurt religious sentiments” at the one of India’s top fine arts institute May 5, have taken strong exception to “the assault and rustication” of one of the students, and lack of action taken against those who “violated” the institution and committed the act. Floated as an online petition seeking wider support, the FoFA alumni, in their statement, addressed to the vice chancellor, MSU, said, there should be “thorough” investigation in the whole incident and “immediate action” should be taken against syndicate member Hasmukh Vaghela, MSU, who sparked the assault, and “other co-conspirators” for breaching “university code of conduct and unlawful activities committed in broad daylight”. While the alumni statement doesn't say so, Vaghela

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They