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

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.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

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".

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Lack of welfare schemes, BSF curbs force West Bengal farmers to migrate far away

Counteview Desk  In a representation to the National Human Rights Commission chairperson, a senior West Bengal based activist has complained that villagers living near the border with Bangladesh are forced to migrate to as far away as Mumbai and Kerala because of lack of government sensitivity towards their welfare in original villages. Giving specific instances, Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), said, if the Border Security Force (BSF) had not put any restriction on agricultural activities, and if villages had properly implemented welfare schemes, these people would never migrate to other States. Text: I want to attract your immediate attention to the inhumane condition of the migrated workers of Gobra village, Swarupnagar Block in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal to seek your urgent intervention to protect the rights of these people. Gobra is a village situated near the Indo-Bangladesh Border where the border fencing is about 500 meters i