Will Durant

Modi is India’s greatest prime minister by a distance—here’s why

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The very headline demands a comparison. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had his own view of India, not the one he shared with his mentor Mahatma Gandhi. Views on science was one thing, Hindus were another. Gandhi’s India was more than just Hindus, often at its cost. Nehru’s India could do without Hindus. For their own reasons, almost a century they shared between them (1869-1964), never made Hindus a political question.  Hindus, “the bloodiest story in human history” as historian Will Durant put it, remained unattended.

Indira Gandhi didn’t burden herself with the weight of ideology. Power was all that mattered. Two notables which she is credited with, probably owed little to her. The liberation of Bangladesh was an Indian army’s gift. Indeed, New Delhi held back the permission to storm Dhaka well beyond the expiry date. The storming of Golden Temple, and clearing of Sant Jarnail Bhindranwale and his proverbial 40 henchmen, was the outcome of her own experiment which went horribly wrong. Between the imposition of the Emergency and her butchering of Constitution–“secular” and all–it’s difficult to say which was worse.

Rajiv Gandhi, the reluctant politician, was terrible on Sri Lanka’s Tamil issue. He paid with his life in the end. He also apparently had a blood-streak in him which his velvety profile hid well. Ask the survivors of 1984 Sikh Progrom, it’s justice in perpetual limbo.  He also carried on the tradition of Muslim appeasement which under Mahatma Gandhi had cost India  its western and eastern arms.  He upturned the Supreme Court verdict on Shah Bano which had granted the divorced woman the right to alimony. Sharia Law had trumped democracy. India was rightly perceived to be a soft state by fundamentalists.  It gave wind to separatists in Kashmir.

Thereafter, terrorism became the headlines. Hindus were shown the chimera of independence as lakhs of them were driven out of Kashmir Valley. Atal Behari Vajpayee favoured peace with Pakistan and got Kargil in return. Vajpayee was no ordinary leader though. He made India nuclear. It was a game changer in India’s security doctrine. Vajpayee also did bold reforms in education and infrastructure.

Manmohan Singh was an economist at the service of politicians. He was a dummy prime minister, an accidental one, who turned a blind eye to scams dancing -under his chair. Pamphleteers give him credit for opening up the Indian economy. In essence, he only carried out the dictates of his prime minister Narasimha Rao who didn’t belong to Nehru-Gandhi clan. His has been a pursuit of power, of communal bias— “Muslims have the first right on India’s resources” – and between visits to hospitals, he is presently panting for a Rajya Sabha seat.

In all these pre-Modi years, India wrestled with hunger, wars and terrorism as its three key moments. In the 60s, India was without food. Wars bloodied its earth virtually every decade. Terrorism brought death to cities after 1990. Mumbai’s 26/11 was as big a psychological scar to India as battles of Panipat from Babur to Ahmed Shah Abdali. Rich made the best of licence raj; poor couldn’t even enter a park. Police and bank accounts were out of bounds. Subsidies were for the middlemen. Entrepreneurship a sin and a road to suicide. Mandal Commission–oh we forgot VP Singh–created regional satraps in Mayawati and Yadavs on the plank of Dalit politics.

Modi now has completed six years in office. His both terms secured with a resounding vote from 1.35 billion Indians. He chose demonetization against black money and Indians became friends with the digital world, an offshoot nobody had foreseen. India took halting steps towards one-tax regime in Goods and Services Tax (GST). India’s unseen people today have electricity, cylinders, health coupons, bank accounts, direct subsidies, Mudra loans and gifts of sanitation etc. These benefits don’t choose Hindus over Muslims.

Yet, this is not what makes Modi India’s greatest prime minister ever. It’s about vision–which is not ideology–where he seems to be up against the world. He dreams of a safe, prosperous and united India but not at the cost of Hindus. It upsets a hell of a lot of people.

Let’s begin with Kashmir. He has restructured the former state which was manipulated by Nehru-Gandhi clan to ensure Kashmir Valley always wins. In due course, it became a personal fiefdom of Abdullahs and Muftis. Now the assembly seats, whenever elections are held, would see a balance in proportion to size and population. There is not an ounce of evidence to suggest it is against Kashmiri Muslims. But there is plenty to suggest it would hurt the entrenched regional dynasties who had turned a blind eye, if not aided and abetted, the terrorism from across the border. Muslims in Kashmir Valley were in pits in all these years. They could only look up.

An impartial history would judge Modi as an Indian who saved India’s borders which Prithvirajs, Gandhis and Nehrus couldn’t do in a thousand years. Kashmir was a lost case. In 2047, it would’ve been hundred years to that thorn. It was not a matter of if, but only of when, India would become the rest of Kashmir.  In the age of Islamic State (IS) and its known cahoots in India this was given. My children, and their children, and their children, have been blessed with that one ring of security which is Modi’s offering at Mother India’s feet.

Then, we have Ram Janmabhoomi. This was hanging fire much beyond our independent years. Nothing had been in doubt: That the Babri Masjid had been built over a temple; that it was a mosque in disuse; and that mosques are routinely removed in Saudi Arabia. Yet, Hindus were denied a home for their supreme deity in their own land. Modi has managed it without resorting to unconstitutional norms.

One half of India’s 200 Muslims, their womenfolk, had a constitutional disadvantage due to a practice which isn’t objected to by Sharia Law even though the Holy Book probably doesn’t sanction it. A husband could take away his wife’s investment of her life and career in him by simply pronouncing triple talaq. This was slavery within homes. It hurt Muslim women, their kids, the family, the society and the nation. The Triple Talaq Act 2019, which had been approved by Supreme Court but stuck in Parliament on numbers, was finally enacted within days Modi assumed his second term. This was the first definite step towards Uniform Civil Code (UCC) which is desired by the Constitution.

It’s said Muslims are unsafe in Modi’s India. Lynchings are cited as proof. I remember so clearly the early days of Modi’s first term when this word was repeated ad nauseam. A few scribes and newspapers worked in lockstep on this agenda. You couldn’t pick up a newspaper where “lynching”, real or fake, wasn’t mentioned. Lynchings have always happened in rural India where cows are wealth and people would give life to protect them. It’s no different to how anti-CAA and now migrants have been picked for propaganda though they couldn’t care less for Muslims or poor.

This anti-India lobby of journalists, politicians and their foreign handlers see an existential threat in Modi. He is a Hindu in thought and action but they would rather portray him as anti-Muslim. It’s easy to sway millions of Muslims for most are uneducated and poor; and have a latent fear of Hindu’s rise. This frenzy would again be on us once Corona Virus recedes in the background.

Modi’s position is secure in history. His real test would be coming four years. Anti-India lobby, which includes Jihadis, Communists and imperialist forces, won’t give him a moment’s respite on Muslims. Modi is a nationalist and nationalists are always a threat to these global forces.  I predict an anarchy on streets where police would be immobilized. Any action they take would have screaming headlines and images in next day’s daily. It in turn would bring pressure groups such as the United Nations, European Parliament, George Soros etc. into play. Police would freeze; the anarchy would bring in violent mobs in a bid to overthrow him. This is a script I am reading it out to you in advance. How Modi responds, we would see.

We haven’t touched how painstakingly Modi has invested his time and energy to be a world leader of considerable respect. Or how, if we beat Corona, he would invite books of gratitude. He doesn’t part with national coffers easily which is a leeway we must grant to a Gujarati. But the sum is always greater than the parts and it’s the whole which makes Modi the greatest ever.

 

“Bloodiest story of human history” and its long shadow on a resurgent India

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Never since the bloodbath of the Partition in 1947 which cost two million lives have Muslims and Hindus been so disenchanted with each other as of now and understanding its complexity could steer clear a resurgent India from becoming a prisoner of its past.

Rioters have taken to streets, cost lives and burnt public property worth millions since the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed by the Parliament in the closing days of 2019. Despite Indian prime minister Narendra Modi putting all doubts to rest with a rousing speech to a mammoth crowd in the Capital, there has been no letting up on the angst on either side.

The Act in essence eases up the citizenship process for the persecuted religious minority, including Hindus, in three Islamic republics of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan but its opponents want Muslims covered too even though they are not in minority in these countries and there are other avenues for them to gain Indian citizenship.

First students of a few Muslim educational institutions and then the rioters have made violent headlines and now supporters of the Citizenship Act are filling up the streets, albeit peacefully, but there is little mistaking that Muslims and Hindus are standing on the two sides of the great divide.

“Bloodiest story of human history”

Hindus historically resent almost a millennium-long persecution (8th to 18th century) at the hands of Muslim invaders who forged empires and inflicted what historian Will Durant described as the “bloodiest story of human history.” The wounds festered further when India was amputated of its western and eastern parts on the call of Muslim leaders on religious grounds by the departing British in 1947. The newly-formed Pakistan since then has forced India into four wars and supplied terrorists to turn Kashmir into a killing field. That scores of riots between the two since independence has claimed more than 10,000 lives has only bloodied the nation’s fabric.

Hindus further simmer that the Congress party, which ruled most in independent India, has “appeased” Muslims with funds and doles, created a minority affairs ministry with a separate budget and yet championed “secularism” from the rooftop. Muslims have control on their religious and educational institutions but the same is denied to Hindus. Hindus fear that such “appeasement” could cause another break-up of India like it did at the independence.

Muslims, on their part, largely detest the rise of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which Hindus view as essentially one of its own.  The party is in its second term with full majority under a hugely popular prime minister Narendra Modi who arguably has done more for Indian Muslims than Congress. Yet a series of events, such as overturning of triple talaqs (instant divorce), abrogation of special rights to Jammu and Kashmir and the favourable judicial verdict for a temple for Hindus’ deity Lord Rama in Ayodhya, has made sizeable number of Muslims long-faced.

A doctored Liberal narrative

The Liberal discourse, which controls the narrative, has largely tried to whitewash India’s violent experience with Islam and tried to present a composite Hindu-Muslim history though the truth is the great tradition of India’s ascetics and saints never caught the fancy of Muslim hearts. Nor India’s rich philosophy mattered to Muslim invaders but for a handful of notable exceptions.

Indian and Muslim literatures have largely run a parallel course. Pre-Muslim Indian history or Hindu heroes find no mention in Muslim annals. Muslim rulers have largely been indifferent to India’s magnificent traditions of sculpture. Some synthesis in language and music, or architecture, has been spruced up as proof of harmony. But it’s a stretch of imagination. Oppressors have never been seen indigenous by natives anywhere in the world. For example, Thanksgiving Day carries completely different connotations for White Americans than it does for Red Indians. While one celebrates it as the day when Pilgrim Fathers stepped on to the American soil, the Red Indians view it as a day of mourning.

The present disquiet has reopened the old wounds. While it is true that Indian Muslims by and large are peaceful, as perhaps are their majority in the world, yet it only takes a few to cause upheavals around the globe and bring Islam’s violent historical past on to the centrestage. Muslims need a credible, constructive leadership, at least in India, which speaks up against entitlement, support moves which free up their women from hardliners, and backs the long-pending Constitutional demand of a Uniform Civil Code which could help get rid of a few regressive Sharia (Islamic) laws. Till a voice emerges from within for one people, one nation, the historical suspicion of two-nation theory, which gave birth to Pakistan, would remain fresh in the mind of Hindus.

Liberals ensure that anything that makes Muslims uncomfortable must be branded as “hate” or “Islamophobia.” This puts the reformation on back-burner. Till it’s encouraged, societies around the world would be convulsed into turmoil, be it in Europe or in India.

 

Are you “fringe or “mainstream”, Mr Varma?

Pavan Varma–his snobbery must never be mistaken for gravitas, never homespun but unmistakably Western—writes in Times of India that “fringe” and “mainstream” is one and the same thing when it comes to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He gives instances to imply that BJP is promoting sectarian violence, artistic intolerance, rewriting history and imposing public morality.

At the outset, Varma must decide whether he is a “fringe” or “mainstream” of BJP. After all Janata Dal (United) is in power in Bihar because of BJP’s support and Varma is its national general secretary. If BJP is anathema to him, why lounge with them? And conversely, by tolerating a “fringe” like him, doesn’t “mainstream” (BJP) show itself to be different and plural? How “fringe” and “mainstream” then is the same for BJP? Any idea, sirji?

A BJP MP from Maharashtra goes public in his criticism of Narendra Modi and paints the town red. Yet, this “fringe” is never pulled up by the “mainstream.” How would Varma describe this “fringe” and “mainstream” as the same?

Dr Subramaniam Swamy is a Rajya Sabha member because of thinly disguised support of the BJP. Yet, he loses no opportunity to lash out at arguably number two in the BJP government, Arun Jaitley. Why the “fringe” Swamy and the “mainstream” Jaitley aren’t the same in this instance?

In trying to impress his case, Varma treats the questioning on “Taj Mahal” as virtually blasphemy. If the spirit of questioning is met with the same “intolerance” that Varma exhibits then the world would still have been flat and earth still the centre of universe.  He has objection to Islamic rule—around 800 years– being called a period of “extreme exploitation, insane barbarism, and unprecedented intolerance. “

Varma, a History student, probably hasn’t heard of Ibn Batuta who gives a contemporary account of 14th century Delhi where decapitated and mutilated bodies are strewn at the door of palace of Sultan, daily. Nor that Batuta was given scores of Hindu sex slave girls for his pleasure. Varma probably has also not heard of historian Will Durant who wrote in his Story of Civilization, “the Mohammedan conquest of India was probably the bloodiest story in history.” Or more contemporary V.S. Naipaul who lamented that Hindu civilization was “mortally wounded” and “ancient Hindu India” was destroyed by these invasions.

Yet Varma wouldn’t allow us the blasphemy of questioning “Taj Mahal” or “Islamic rule.” He has problem with “fringe” Dina Nath Batra on his conviction of ancient India and the “mainstream” Narendra Modi sharing the belief. While  modern giants of quantum physics today acknowledges the contribution of Vedas; if a Fields Medal (mathematics Nobel) winner concede that Sanskrit texts and ancient seventh century mathematician Brahmagupta  helped his quest, Varma would like us to believe his bogus and compromised intellectualism and not these verified truth. Such moribund persons would still mock at Ram Setu even as modern science is beginning to accept its existence.

Varma would do well to examine the “fringe” and “mainstream” overlapping of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal or Pinaryi Vijayan in Kerala. We await his verdict on “fringe” Jignesh Mewani and “mainstream” Rahul Gandhi on caste polarization. He can enlighten us with his views on “fringe” abuses of our elected Prime Minister by “mainstream” AAP, SP and BSP leaders.

It’s time our myopic intellectuals get a ball transplant.