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Authoritarian leaders have 'used' animals to project their power, strength, courage

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*

Even as India appears to be sinking amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, camera addicted and selfie-savvy Prime Minister Narendra Modi is busy with sharing his multitasking photos, his photography skills and his love for animals, birds and wildlife. Economic and social crisis does not seem to disturb his focus on camera. The positive vibe photos of Modi feeding peacocks at his residence are flooding social media timelines.
The idea is to make people believe in the compassionate character of Modi and represent his simplicity and love for animals. The petting of animals and birds for company and entertainment is not same as unconditional love for animals. There is huge evidence to suggest that some animal lovers have also been people haters. The feudal and authoritarian leaders have always used animals to project their leadership in terms of power, strength and courage.
Jan Mohnhaupt (2020) in his book ‘Animals in National Socialism’ depicts the way animals were used in Hitler’s footage showing his love for animals and demanding obedience to his leadership. Adolf Hitler to Karl-Otto Koch of the Schutzstaffel (SS) of Nazi Germany were known for their love for animals and used pets for entertainment and diversionary strategy. The Nazi propaganda used animals to undermine political opponents. There was no contradiction between love for animals and Nazi death cult.
Similarly, the love for animals cannot hide the evil Hindutva politics and polices of Modi led BJP government in India. When Modi was chief minister, Muslims were killed during the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, and he watched silently. The rise of hate crime, lynching of Muslims, attack on rationalists and activists continue to grow in India under Modi’s watch as the PM of India.
The recent Delhi riots have taken place directly under his watch. The ministers in Modi’s cabinet are known for their Islamophobic views and anti-Muslim statements in public. There is no doubt that Modi loves camera more than animals. In fact, his remark calling Muslims puppies invited a huge controversy. 
The hugging corporate heads and humilating Muslims are twin pillars of Hindutva politics. The vilification campaigns against Muslims, secularists and political opponents are everyday affairs. The brazen abuses of civil liberties and celebration of riots are daily reminder of worsening of law and order situation after the formation central government by BJP under the leadership of Modi. 
It is important to identify how the love for animals and Hindutva politics of hate moves together in India. The subjugation of minorities and undermining the secular and democratic character of India is defining feature of Hindutva ideology in praxis. 
Modi is trying to seduce Indian masses by showing his love for animals and hide all his failures as the PM of India. The ambiance of Modi’s photoshoot makes one feel as if Modi stays far away from the ugly realities of majority of Indians. No amount of propaganda can provide relief to the pain of hunger. No amount of media management can hide the agrarian and unemployment crisis in India.
Making of democratic deficit is an opportunity for Hindutva forces in India. Modi’s jubilant photoshoot is a project to hide the darkness
Even as social and foreign policy crisis continue, the Hindutva anarchy looks more like a systematic design to manufacture crisis, which can be used as a shock therapy to control masses with authoritarian culture of law, police and court. 
The making of democratic deficit is an opportunity for Hindutva forces in India. The Modi’s jubilant photoshoot is a project to hide the darkness and dangers of Hindutva ideology. The policies of Modi government display that it neither cares for animals nor for human beings.
The animal love narrative appears Modi is myopic without loving fellow human beings irrespective of their religious background, food habits and dress patterns. The citizenship rights are no less than animal rights but authoritarian politicians like Modi use animal love to hide their sinister design to diminish citizenship, democratic rights and liberties.
Hindutva politics of hate will not stop with Muslims, it will percolate to every level of Indian society. It is time to stand up with religious minorities to save citizenship rights and constitutional democracy in India. Make no mistake, the stripping of Indian Muslim’s citizenship right is a threat to the citizenship of Hindus, too.
The diversity is India’s strength and Indian’s pride. The Modi led BJP is opposed to the idea of diverse India.The idea of Hindu nation by BJP is a cover for corporate rule in India.Modi’s love for animals will not save Indian economy from plummeting to new low every day.
The failure to stop the forward march of Hindutva would push Indian society to perpetual conflict within the country. There will be no peace and prosperity in India as long as there will be Hindutva ideology.
One wonders if it is time to greet Modi’s false euphoria with mass demonstrations and civil disobedient movements across the country to save the idea of secular, liberal and democratic India. The future of Indians depends on the defeat of Hindutva politics and its bigoted ideology. Political silence is no longer an option for Indians.
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* Senior Lecturer in Business Strategy, Coventry University, UK

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