In Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s New India, you don’t need communal riots to polarise the country. No, those are things of the past. Expect assassinations instead and point-blank determination to shoot down any other ideology or thought.
That’s what happened to Gauri Lankesh, M.M. Kalburgi, Govind Pansare. That’s what almost happened to Shadab Farukh, a student of Jamia Millia Islamia who was protesting against the new Citizenship Act, last week. And that’s what happened almost happened at Shaheen Bagh Saturday when a man fired in the air.
“Yeh lo Azaadi (here’s your freedom),” said a lone gunman as he fired at Jamia Millia Islamia protesters, including Shadab. He was remorseless and determined. At Shaheen Bagh, the other angry shooter said, “Humare desh mein sirf hinduon ki chalegi aur kisi ki nahi (in our country only Hindus will prevail).”
Ironically, the first shooting at Jamia happened on the death anniversary of M.K. Gandhi. Nathuram Godse’s ideology has become mainstream in India now. And clearly, so has his ways.
The new diktat in town is: “Desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro salon ko”, as Modi government minister Anurag Thakur legitimised a Delhi election rally. Two days after the BJP MP urged his audience to chant that, a shooter showed up at Jamia. And a few days after that, at Shaheen Bagh.
A heady cocktail of hate
For the longest time since Gandhi’s assassination, Godse wasn’t publicly spoken of or celebrated. Things started changing with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s rise to power. When Narendra Modi first became Prime Minister in 2014, the chains of secularism and diversity slowly started falling. In Modi’s second term, even the pretence of a chain fell.
Right-wingers have for long spoken against Islam and Muslims for being extreme and aggressive, while emphasising that the Hindu way of life was one of peace and harmony. In Modi’s second term, this careful ‘perception management’ has given way to young Hindu men and women opting for militant Hindutva ideology. It is Godse or the highway.
The RSS website clearly states that the mission of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad is to instil “a spirit of righteous militancy in the Hindu society”. And it seems to be working. Last year, on Gandhi’s death anniversary, All India Hindu Mahasabha leader Poonam Shakun Pandey staged an ‘assassination’ of Gandhi by shooting his effigy. “We have trained our children to kill,” said her husband.
Add to this dangerous ideology, the role of TV media and channels such as Zee News and Republic TV. Hate-regurgitating ‘anchors’ who drive people into a frenzy with twisted panel discussions have made people believe that Hindutva is an all-purpose fix for India, which it always deserved but never achieved.
Lure of money, political power, a sense of impunity and a tamancha (illegal indigenous weapon) further adds to this toxic cocktail that makes people like the shooter at Jamia feel invincible and on the right side of history. That’s instant gratification plus religious righteousness. The shooter at Jamia and many like him think they’re right, just like Godse thought he was.
A new diktat
Today, you either agree with the BJP’s Hindutva policies or you are anti-national and anti-Indian. BJP’s followers are consolidating to fight imaginary enemies – ‘urban Naxals’, ‘tukde tukde gang’, Shaheen Bagh supporters.
There is tacit support of the rulers if you target the dissenters. The shooter at Jamia wasn’t scared of the battery of police personnel and camera crews present. He surrendered without much protest.
It’s a good time to also recall that there have been zero arrests for the vandalism and violence in JNU or the shooting of protesters in Lucknow.
It is also no surprise that the Hindu Mahasabha will now honour the shooter at Jamia because he is a “true nationalist like Godse”. This was ironically announced on the 72nd death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. That same morning, Narendra Modi had stood sombre faced at Gandhi’s memorial.
In his book Why I Assassinated Gandhi, younger brother of Nathuram Godse, Gopal Godse, gave his brother’s side of the story. The book claims that Godse believed that the assassination of Gandhi was permitted as ‘badh’. Godse said Ram had to kill Ravan to purge Lanka of evil.
With a justification like this, anyone whose sympathies lie with Godse would not only want to emulate him but hail him as the true upholder of dharma who frees the world of evil.
And it was Godse’s ideology that pulled the trigger at Shadab and the Jamia protesters 72 years later. And that ideology – and its variants – are being broadcast live every night into Indians’ bedrooms without any censure.
The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.