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Despite a weaker NDA, it 'won't be easy' to undo deep communal polarization

By Ram Puniyani* 

The failure of BJP to get past 272 has brought back the NDA into the forefront. While Atal Behari Vajpayee came to power and led the NDA Government in 1998, still there was a strong imprint of the BJP politics in the government. Among other things which were part of Hindutva agenda that time was the appointment of the Venkatchaliah Commission to review the Constitution and saffronisation of the textbooks and introduction of courses in astrology and paurohitya (rituals) in the curriculum. 
Twice, in 2014 and 2019, Narendra Modi came to power as NDA but as BJP on its own had overwhelming majority the other components of the government were on the ‘silent mode’ and BJP aggressively launched its Hindu nationalist agenda, building of Ram Temple and abolishing article 370. In addition the fringe elements killing Muslims on the pretext of cow-beef and love jihad had a free hand, enjoying impunity from the state.
The other authoritarian streaks of Modi Sarkar, especially the subordination of Constitutional institutions, were very dominating along with the role of the conversion of media into docile media. All this did make the opposition to wake up and come together as INDIA. 
Despite this formation coming into being, Modi and BJP centred their election propaganda around anti-Muslim rhetoric. Starting from propaganda that Congress manifesto allegedly had the imprint of Muslim League, most other slogans and promises of the Congress were turned into being presented as appeasement of Muslims. Muslims were called ghuspathiye (infiltrators) and had more children. 
Modi’s propaganda reached a new low when he said the Congress would do mujra (a dance which emerged during the Mughal rule) for the Muslims. Also it was said, if the Congress comes to power terrorists would be released and invited to have biryani, and Taiban rule would be established.
The system has been so tuned that names of many Muslims do not find place in electoral rolls, at election booths. Many Muslims were turned away by the police. Muslims have been effectively turned into second class citizens and have been made politically invisible. All this intensifies the prevalent hate against this hapless community.
With this background, as the BJP failed to reach the propagated 400 sests for NDA and more than 370 for itself, there was a big sigh of relief in the community. As the results came and Modi declared himself as the next Prime Minister, he toned down his language to recall ‘sarva dharma sambhav’ (equal respect for all religions). This sounded as a sort of peak of hypocrisy in the light of what happened to Muslims (and Christians) during the last ten years.
What is in store for this community in times to come? A small relief is possible, as probably the impunity enjoyed by the fringe elements may be slightly curtailed. There is a big if, as the fringe elements by now are too much rooted in the system. 
Whether allies like Nitish Kumar and Chandrababu Naidu will be able to raise their voice against this scattered anti-Muslim violence is yet to be seen. How effective they can be against the strong arm tactics of the Modi party, only time will tell. The hate spread by the Hindu nationalists is so widespread that it may not be easy to curtail it.
It is likely that the third pillar of the Hindutva politics, Uniform Civil Code, may be deferred. The Citizenship Amendment Act, which discriminates against Muslims, is like a hanging sword, and time alone will tell us how much pressure BJP will put to implement it. 
Surely, after the remarkable Shaheen Bagh movement the BJP will not insist on it unless it feels through experience that it can bulldoze its way despite Naidu and Nitish, who are more tactical in these matters. The BJP has allied with Naidu, who had initiated four percent reservation for Muslims.
Hate spread against minorities has sunk deep into social thinking. Anti-Muslim thinking has become part of average perceptions of  society
The other major issue of caste census, to which BJP is opposed, may have to be rethought, as it was Nitish as the chief minister of Bihar who initiated it, and there is a strong national sentiment for it. There are no buyers for the Modi propaganda that the INDIA alliance will remove the reservations for SC/ST/OBC and give it to Muslims.
What can we expect about the Muslims' social, political and economic conditions? The hate spread against this community by the RSS combine has sunk deep into the social thinking. By default, the anti-Muslim thinking has become part of the average perceptions of the society. The consistent work of this RSS combine has gone up exponentially due to their  associates ensuring changes in textbooks, making media docile, and spreading  misconceptions on different issues.
Indeed, myths and misconceptions are the solid pillars on which hate is constructed, and due to prevalent hate against Muslims, violence and subsequent polarization are brought in. While the role of the RSS in 2024 elections needs further analysis, it is RSS machinations which keep pumping up hate against Muslims as also Christians. 
Interestingly, the number of RSS shakhas during Modi rule has more than doubled up during the last ten years. One suspects that in a state like Odisha where Kandhamal violence took place and Pastor Stains was burnt alive, the roots of BJP’s political rise were watered and now we see its results.
While in Kerala the BJP has won over a section of Christians for various reasons, nationally Christians are on the target of Hindu nationalist politics, as seen by the rising sub radar attacks on prayer meetings of Christians.
All said and done, the marginalization of Muslims will continue. It is not easy to undo the deep polarization introduced into society due to the work done by this organization. 
What the RSS has been doing was well diagnosed by our first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, when he wrote in 1948 after banning the RSS:  “All their speeches were full of communal poison, as a result of the poison the country had to suffer the sacrifice of invaluable life of Gandhiji”. This aspect of our political life was not curtailed or combated and it grew into a multi-headed hydra using every opportunity to intensify the religious division in the society. 
We cannot build the India of the dreams of our freedom fighters without undoing the massive hate which grips the social understanding.
---
*Political commentator. YoutubeFacebookInstagramWhatsappTwitterPinterestMy Website, My App

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