The PM is peddling a lie that could lead to a civil war. And yet we're silent
The man has spoken yet again. If the liberals keep complaining even after this about his silence, they should go and get their ears checked.
He speaks again and again, but they do not hear him. Is it just their old 'secular' embarrassment that prevents them from accepting what he has been saying all along in his own voice?
This time, the mobiliser, or polariser, tried to give an anti-Muslim spin to the reservation debate. He told his audience that there was a conspiracy being hatched by Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar to snatch away the quota of the Extremely Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes, and give it to a particular community. He left the community unnamed.
He took out Ambedkar from his arsenal to make his message clearer: Babasaheb was against reservation on the basis of religion.
Was there any confusion about the fact that he was trying to terrify the EBCs and SCs by invoking the spectre of Muslims gobbling up resources meant for these poor Hindus?
Without losing time, the BJP issued an advertisement, using the bottom spread space of all newspapers published from Patna to tattoo the message from the Buxar speech permanently on the minds of the electorate.
The advertisement removes the vagueness of the speech, and names the other explicitly: "Daliton, pichchadon ki thali kheech alpasankhyakon ko aarakshan parosne ka shadyantra kya sushashan hai?" asks Wednesday's ad, sniffing a "conspiracy to snatch reservation from the plates of Dalits and backwards and serve it to minorities."
Thus spake the polariser
The polariser had to say it only once. As he did after Dadri.
Then, he was speaking on behalf of the Yadavs. He attacked Lalu for having insulted his own community by saying there are Hindus who eat beef.
After making this statement, he turned into a preacher of the values of tolerance and harmony. It was left to lesser mortals like Sushil Kumar Modi to spread his message by saying the BJP was committed to making anti-cow slaughter laws more stringent if it came to power.
This time, he told the EBCs that he was one of them, and that he'd lay down his life to ensure that their quota was not snatched away from them and given to some other community.
The campaign machinery was immediately pressed into action to clarify and amplify the message. Nothing new here. This is how the BJP and the RSS function.
Busy in worthier affairs?
The inclusive large heart has always had the courage to move on from his last position. What's somewhat surprising, though, is that all the liberal voices, who were asking him to show some mercy for the beleaguered minorities (they are his people after all), seem to be busy in worthier affairs.
The media has mostly tried to ignore the significance of the statement or underplay it. We have not seen edits criticising the man for this naked, unabashed sectarian rhetoric.
He is not merely a campaigner for the BJP. He remains the Prime Minister for all the people of India. He cannot discriminate between communities, cannot pit one against the other.
He was trying to terrify EBCs and SCs by invoking the spectre of Muslims gobbling up resources
The man does not care. He has no patience for these useless civilities. He knows it too well that election campaign is not a time for a nuanced discussion. It is a time to simplify, to vulgarise the discourse and make the message digestible for the common masses.
The basic idea is to create disaffection and suspicion. To make people feel vulnerable. If you do not create an antagonistic 'other', how would people gravitate around you? Only then will they start looking for a protector, a saviour. And then he'll present himself as their rescuer.
Frenzy trumps thinking faculties
This speech needs to be heard along with the attempts to trigger communal violence in Bihar when electioneering is on. It is a different matter that the political leadership and the administration have shown remarkable commitment not to allow it. The BJP is playing both the cards, Hindu and caste. Since it is Hindu casteism, we do not mind.
The man knows that it is important to create a frenzy to disable the thinking faculty of the electorate. Otherwise, they can recall what Supriya Sharma has written: that the other community is not so 'other'.
She rightly points out, "Muslims fall in the same category that he seeks to protect with his life. In Bihar, as in many other states, Muslim groups are included in the list of Other Backward Classes and Extremely Backward Classes.
If you do not create an antagonistic 'other', how would people gravitate around you?
Of the 150-odd castes and communities on the EBC and OBC list in Bihar, for instance, 28 are Muslim communities. These include Idrisi (tailor), Kasab (butcher), Miriasin, Rayeen, among others; groups which are socially, educationally and economically as backward, if not more, than their Hindu counterparts."
In fact, Bihar is unique for having a movement like the Pasmanda Mahaj, which was initiated and led by Muslim names. They said that 'Dalit' or 'backward' are secular categories, and all religious communities have Dalits and backwards of their own. They should be seen as one social category, irrespective of their religious affiliation. They suffer from the same social discrimination and need the same kind of support from the state.
Silence of the liberals
This progressive politics is being negated by peddling a lie. That too from the mouth of a man who also happens to be the Prime Minister of India, expected to uphold the constitutional rights of all citizens.
When a man holding this position resorts to lies which are then spread brazenly by his political party, which in turn have the potential to start a civil war-like situation, one needs to sit up and take note. And speak out.
What we find, instead, is a liberal silence. It is only the secular fringe that is raising the alarm. My mind goes back to the press meet before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections addressed by UR Ananthamurthy who, despite being under dialysis, had come from Bangalore. I remember his words: "Do not let a bully occupy the position of power, for your courage will gradually be sapped by him."
It explains the embarrassed silence of the liberals in face of such devious and openly divisive ruling politics.
The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation.