Tinderbox politics

The temptation to start with an update on the weather feels so automatic that I have to check myself. I shan’t. Instead, I intend to pay attention to the frizzling thoughts that are now beginning to boil over with the imminent elections in the home country. At the moment, the irritation is mainly due to the slightly off centre emphasis of the coverage, here in the UK. For example, a news report on the radio that said Narendra Modi had finally accepted that he was married, became muddled into talking about his arranged marriage, a phrase repeated at least 3 times in a 45 second piece. When the focus ought to have been on the reason for separating from his wife – not because of his arranged marriage, but in order to take a vow of celibacy. This, so that he could join the RSS, the militant arm of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

By some serendipitous coincidence, we watched Kai Po Che on Netflix the other night. Based on the novel The Three Mistakes of My Life, by Chetan Bhagat, the film does a creditable job of telling the story of the Gujarat massacre of 2002 in Godhra. Cinema is always a good vehicle to channel one’s emotions. At the most, I might wipe away an errant tear when moved but in this case, there was heartfelt screaming at the screen. Have no lessons been learnt about the lethal combination of religion in politics? This is definitely not the way I see my religion. This isn’t meant to be a naïve question but is it ever worth it to kill someone because of their faith? And that too for revenge? 

To support my rhetorical questions I could mention obvious events in India’s recent history – knowing that just uttering each one of them will provoke a kind of furious reaction in people’s minds. Shall we try, Partition of India/Pakistan and the ensuing carnage? Especially against women from either side? Or shall we try the hounding of the Sikhs after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, post the storming of the Golden Temple?

Or maybe I should drop the ultimate bomb, Ayodhya into this mix – “Do they know how important Lord Rama is, to us Hindus?” someone demanded recently. Now, if we are looking for naïve questions, that must surely be it. When I grew up in our conventional Hindu family – our parents and grandparents spoke about Varanasi, Hardwar and Rishikesh as special places of worship – the river Ganges being key to all of these spots. No one ever said, “I have to visit Ayodhya, Rama’s birthplace, before I die.” Outrage over Ayodhya feels really pointless, whipped up frenzy by twisted politicians and the hysterical media. For some perspective, check out Cordoba just for a change – the Virgin Mary has taken residence in this once grand mosque. If Hinduism has survived for 5000 years, it will survive a bit longer. In the ‘great’ democracy India is, no one is stopped from worshipping their special deity – Rama included. 

Back to my bubbling emotions – the real reason for the turbulence is of course how to deal with what now looks like the inevitable result. Without a credible alternative, Narendra Modi is looking likely to win easily. With his sinister smile (or tough man attitude as some might say), we are lulled into believing that he’s the man for the job. He’s the man who’s going to make India grow, beat China, create jobs…be prepared folks, there’s a new dawn approaching. Fasten your seat-belts, you don’t want to miss it!




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