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

Did Modi promote Dholavira, a UNESCO site now, as Gujarat CM? Facts don't tally

By Rajiv Shah  As would generally happen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet – that not only was he “absolutely delighted” with the news of UNESCO tag to Dholavira, but he “ first visited ” the site during his “student days and was mesmerised by the place” – is being doubted by his detractors. None of the two tweets, strangely, even recalls once that it’s a Harappan site in Gujarat.

How real is Mamata challenge to Modi? Preparing for 2024 'khela hobey' moment

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  Third time elected West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee is on a whirlwind tour of Delhi, meeting everyone who matters within and beyond the government, the Prime Minister, the President, some Cabinet ministers, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, several other opposition leaders, et al.

Labelling a Jesuit a Marxist? It's like saying if you use a plane, you become American

Jesuits: Cedric Prakash, Stan Swamy By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* A thirteen- fourteen-year-old has many dreams! That's an impressionable age; at the cusp of finishing school. It is also a time when one tastes a different kind of freedom: to go for camps with boys of your own age (not with ones family). Such camps and outings were always enjoyed to the hilt. The ones, however, which still remain etched in my memory are the mission camps to the Jesuit missions in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Giant conglomerates 'favoured': Whither tribal rights for jal-jungle-jameen?

Prafull Samantara By Mohammad Irshad Ansari*  The struggle for “Jal, Jungle and Jameen” has been a long-drawn battle for the tribal communities of India. This tussle was once again in the limelight with the proposed diamond mining in the Buxwaha forest of Chhatarpur (Madhya Pradesh). The only difference in this movement was the massive social media support it gained, which actually seems to tilt the scale for the tribal people in a long time.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

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".

If not Modi, then who? Why? I (an ordinary citizen) am there! Main hoon naa!

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The number of women ministers is doubled in early July from the first term after cabinet reshuffle by the present government led by Narendra Modi. While there were 06 women ministers in the previous term, this term there are 11. The previous two governments led by Dr Manmohan Singh had 10 women ministers in each tenure. Are these number of women ministers something to rejoice in the near 75 years of independence? Yes maybe, if we think that things are slowly improving in the patriarchal system. This change is less likely to achieve gender balance in the parliament otherwise we require more than 11 as per the 33% reservation . This change is also less likely because the men politicians’ inability to handle the country’s mess is becoming more and more evident and especially during the corona crisis. Seems, the addition of more women ministers may be a result of the recent assembly elections where women played a decisive role in the election results. For example

UP arrest of 'terrorists': Diverting attention from Covid goof-up, Ram temple land scam?

By Advocate Mohammad Shoaib, Sandeep Pandey* That corruption is rampant in police department is a common experience. However, there is another form of corruption which devastates lives of individuals and their families. It has now emerged as a common phenomenon that police more often than not register false cases because of which individuals have to spend number of years in jail.

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.

Effluent discharge into deep sea? Modi told to 'reconsider' Rs 2275 crore Gujarat project

Counterview Desk  In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, well-known Gujarat-based environmentalist, Mahesh Pandya of the Paryavaran Mitra, has protested against the manner in with the Gujarat government is continuing with its deep sea effluent disposal project despite environmental concerns.

Gujarat govt gender insensitive? Cyclone package for fisherfolk 'ignores' poor women

By Our Representative A memorandum submitted to the Gujarat government by various fisherfolk associations of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat under the leadership of Ahmedabad NGO Centre for Social Justice's senior activist Arvind Khuman, who is based in Amreli, has suggested that the relief package offered to the fishermen affected by the Tauktae cyclone is not only inadequate, it is also gender insensitive.